Burroughs and Burbank High students hope to create happiness with kindness project

Many students at Burbank and John Burroughs high schools were busy Friday afternoon preparing for the homecoming football game between the two schools later that evening.

However, a group of about 30 students from Burroughs chose to spend their time after school in the library on campus to work on portraits they will be sending to less fortunate children.

For the seventh year, Burroughs students are working with the nonprofit Memory Project to participate in the organization’s Portraits of Kindness campaign, in which students from the United States receive photos of children in other countries who are facing hardships and challenges, such as poverty, violence and neglect. Each student then draws the likeness of the child in whatever medium they choose.

Students from Burbank High are also participating in the project with their school rivals. It is the second year that Burbank has been involved with Portraits of Kindness.

Julie Grene, library coordinator at Burroughs and advisor for the project, said she has been impressed with the commitment that students give every year to the project, which is a voluntary assignment that doesn’t count toward their grades.

“These are students who are doing it from their heart,” said Grene as she fought back tears.

Grene has compiled a scrapbook of all the portraits that Burroughs students have drawn during the past seven years. The children who are drawn live in a variety of countries including the Philippines, Vietnam, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Peru and Columbia.

Students from Burroughs and Burbank high schools are working on portraits of children in refugee camps around Syria.

Burroughs senior Joseph Martinez, 17, was just getting started on his portrait of an 11-year-old girl named Amani Friday afternoon. He had already finished doing a rough sketch of her face and was working on adding color to Amani’s hijab, using some colored pencils.

“I feel really happy to do this for her,” Joseph said. “There’s like this little happy soul inside your heart, a sort of kindness. It feels good to do all this work to hopefully make a child from Syria happy.”

It is the second time Joseph has participated in the Portraits of Kindness project. He said he’s taking part because he wants to continue doing something positive for a child in need.

Nearby Joseph was sophomore Megan Knutson, 15, who was also using colored pencils for her portrait. She had a photo of a 13-year-old girl named Fatema.

Megan, who is a first-time participant in the project, was about halfway done with Fatema’s face, carefully using different colored pencils to get the shading on the girl’s face right.

She said she was sold on taking part in the project after she saw the video from Memory Project last year when the nonprofit handed out children’s portraits. The organization makes a new video each year.

“I love doing things like this, especially for kids that are around our age,” Megan said. “It kind of bonds us … I’m just happy that I’m making her happy.”

anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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