DIXONVILLE — Umpqua Valley Christian was bustling with excitement Friday when community members came to decorate the bathroom stalls with positive messages before the students return Monday, Aug. 27.
The messages varied in each bathroom but kept with an overall positive theme telling students they’re beautiful, strong, courageous, fearfully and wonderfully made.
As a private school UVC is able to include the Bible to inspire its students, including Joshua 1:9 and Psalm 139:14 in the decorations.
“We wanted to be encouraging and include the Bible verses to remind the students who they are in Christ,” Rachel Keller, a parent of a UVC student, said. “We want to let them know they’re beautiful.”
Bees will tell the elementary school girls they are “bee-you-tiful” while the boys will see a gray bear with a message to be “strong and courageous.”
Heather Bendele, also a parent, said she has similar inspirational messages all around her house.
“It’s cool,” fourth-grade teacher Natasha Johnson said. “It’s great to get people together to beautify the campus and make it more like a home. (The students) are here so much.”
Keller saw a post on Facebook about a school doing something similar and decided to approach the administration and teachers to get permission.
Bathrooms have become a point of contention in some communities. A lawsuit was recently filed — and subsequently dropped — against the Sutherlin School District for allowing a transgender male to use the boys’ bathroom.
As a private institution, UVC does not have to be inclusive of transgender students and the school already has a written bylaw, which states that “rejecting one’s biological sex rejects the created image of God.”
However, Keller made it clear that the school is not using the bathroom painting to make a political stance.
“We just want the kiddos to know we love them and care about them,” she said. “If you’re having a crummy day and you see a huge bear in the bathroom, hopefully, that’ll brighten their day a little bit and make them smile.”
Several teachers came out Friday to help paint the brightly-colored messages on the bathroom stalls.
Students also helped with the project. Tylie Bendele, a soon-to-be ninth grader, painted trees in the boys’ bathroom while seventh-grader Sierra Johnson painted bees in the girls’ bathroom.
Recent graduate Laura Julian helped trace messages in pencil onto the bathroom stalls with the help of a projector. Sareigh Bendele, who will be a senior in the fall, drew vines by freehand on the stall doors.
Later, other volunteers would come and color inside the lines.
“It’s such a cool way to inspire positivity in general and also body positivity,” Caeli Barnhart, a volunteer and UVC alumna, said.
Besides the new paint inside the bathroom, longtime UVC aide Leslie Ayers made vinyl cut-outs of inspirational messages to go on the outside doors and mirrors.
Elementary School Principal Rebecca Jewell had seen messages like these in Texas where she previously taught and is excited to see the trend catching on here.
“It reinforces the messages we teach in the classroom to all areas,” Jewell said. “We want them to know their identity in Christ and that’s what we want to convey, hopefully seeing the messages everywhere will make them stick.”
Unlike some bathroom graffiti, these are messages that can be repeated to parents.