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Hallway-long Mural Honors Students, Recovering Principal


In honor of East Kentwood High School students and Principal John Keenoy, who is battling cancer, art students recently unveiled a huge mural that pops with school pride.

Stretching the length of an entire hallway outside the high school band room and near the Field House, where many athletic events take place, the Sports Mural measures 3 1/2-feet tall and a whopping 123-feet long. It tells the story of the school through the athleticism of 28 sports, the harmony of the band and music programs and the innovation of art.

Teachers, local professionals, representatives from the City of Kentwood and administrators attended the unveiling.

About 20 members of the National Art Honor Society each devoted 20 to 50 hours over three months to create the mural. The NAHS was founded five years ago with the mission to beautify the school and community, said art teacher Le Tran, who co-advises the program with art teacher Adrienne DeMilner.

Principal John Keenoy stands next to Freddy the Falcon, which stands at the end of mural
Principal John Keenoy stands next to Freddy the Falcon, which stands at the end of mural

Embracing Pride for the Principal

NAHS members originally planned to create a mural specifically for the school’s art wing, but that changed when Keenoy announced he had throat cancer. Diagnosed in October, Keenoy, who has spent six years as principal, is recovering following intensive treatment. Art students wanted to celebrate school pride in his honor.

“It’s a total surprise and an awesome honor,” Keenoy said. “The students worked so hard on it. It serves the community and the student body so well. Kentwood is a special place.”

DeMilner said the vision was to create a more inviting space in school, representing the entire student body.

“It’s about athleticism, it’s about spirit, it’s about art and everyone coming together to make this a beautiful world,” DeMilner said.

Freshman Amanda Nguyen said the mural is a product of students’ imaginations. “To see it here today is something that brings true pride and honor to East Kentwood and its students,” she said. “I came in working with painters but I came out with friends and much more experience.”

“I hope kids will look at this mural every day and be inspired to do creative things, whether it be paint a mural or simply draw a sketch in a sketch book,” added senior Caitlyn Gray.

“It’s a good memento. It’s cool to walk down here and see this really big amazing mural and know I actually helped with it,” said NAHS member Nick Niefert, a sophomore.

The NAHS has also created murals for the East Kentwood Freshman Campus, Hamilton Elementary, a local State Farm Insurance office, the Kentwood Library and Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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