Mariners Elementary hosts Comicon to help kids ‘find their people’

Library media technician Jacquelyn Casella stands with a few hundred of the Mariners Elementary Comicon artworks.
Library media technician Jacquelyn Casella stands with a few hundred of the Mariners Elementary Comicon artworks on the school’s library wall on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Glen Juniper looked proudly at a paper box mounted on a wall at the Mariners Elementary School library Thursday afternoon.

Glen, 9, said he made it over a weekend with his sister to fill up the time. It was supposed to be a jack-in-the-box, he explained. As he walked alongside a wall full of drawings, crafts and other artworks produced by students from the school, he pointed to more of his contributions: a box of french fries crafted from paper, a paper flower “gone wrong,” he joked, and a paper replica of boba and a few other snacks.

“All the food stuff I made before lunch,” Glen said, laughing.

Glen Juniper, 9, poses with a few of the entries he made for the Mariners Elementary Comicon.
(Courtesy of Jacquelyn Casella)

Those were but a few of his 11 submissions that he made for his school’s Comicon, an event organized by campus librarians that started quietly last year.

Library media technician Jacquelyn Casella said the idea for Comicon — a reference to Comic Con, a convention in San Diego that celebrates comics and other elements of pop culture, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors annually — came about after a student spoke to her last year about not feeling “seen” because he didn’t play sports.

“I said, ‘Well, guess what. We’re going to change that right now.’ Next month, we did our first Comicon. The whole idea was to draw whatever you wanted because that’s how you find your people. We had kids coming out of the woodwork because they had their work up and they were getting seen because of what was happening,” Casella said. “What we did [this year] is they get to turn in something over a period of two weeks. Whatever gets turned in gets put out there and spotlighted. So, everyone goes, ‘Oh my gosh, look at what they did!’”


Casella said one of her favorite stories out of Comicon was that a student she knew was able to come out of her shell because other students saw what she made and liked her work.

An example of the Comicon artworks created by students.
An example of the Comicon artworks created by students on display at Mariners Elementary School’s library on Thursday. All the work will be taken down Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Casella said she received more than 100 pieces from students among all grades. Some were even three-dimensional or included an aspect of performance.

Of his interest in art and crafting, Glen said, “If I have the time, I’ll just do something fun like design something for like a company or what they’ll sell. Logos and stuff. I like doing [interactive pieces] because, instead of just being a picture on a piece of paper, you can interact with it. I think they stand out more because they pop up.”

Some of his submissions took a day, while others took a few hours.

An array of the Comicon artworks.
An array of the artworks featured at the Mariners Elementary School Comicon. More than 100 pieces were submitted.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Last year, he crafted Hedwig, a messenger owl from the Harry Potter series, to sit on his shoulder. He said he didn’t think he’d be able to participate this year but decided the day before submissions opened that he would after all.

“It was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll just do a tiny little thing.’ But it started getting bigger and bigger because it was so much fun,” he said.

Glen said he liked that he was encouraged to participate by his teachers and librarians. He said he sometimes worked on projects with other students and was hopeful he’d be able to sell some of the items.

Details are shown on one of the bookcases that Glen Juniper, 9, fashioned as part of the Mariners Elementary School Comicon.
(Courtesy of Jacquelyn Casella)

“They love talking about all the things they made,” Casella said. “You’ll see the kids pull the adults and the library staff is staying after hours because the little ones are saying, ‘You want to see something cool? I made that,’ and then they talk about it. They’re so proud of themselves and I don’t think that they get a chance to participate in things where it’s not about quality but about the experience.”

Casella pointed out one piece that had a single, filled-in circle on it.

“This one brought them together because it made all of them go, ‘Wait. You put that up?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, because someone made it.’ They get it and they’re comfortable. They’re usually a little shy when they turn it in unless they know me, but then they’ll say that they’re going to make 10 more and now I’m running out of wall space,” she said, laughing as she gestured to the ceiling-to-floor decorated walls.

Throughout the library, illustrations and interactive pieces adorned walls and bookshelves. Casella said some submissions were rushed over by parents before Comicon opened because of how important it was to some of the kids to get something up.

“It’s teaching them that you don’t have to be No. 1. You don’t have to have a certain skill and we can celebrate everything you want to do. Everyone can do it, and everyone does, and that’s the thing. Kids lose their minds over the simplest thing ... because they’re at the perfect age where it’s just joy and wonder. It’s not like a museum, where you go, ‘Well, it’s the best of the best,’” Casella said. “Look at the energy here. They talk about everything, and it’s just magic.”

Jacquelyn Casella stands with a few hundred of the Mariners Elementary Comicon artworks.
Library media technician Jacquelyn Casella stands with a few hundred of the Mariners Elementary Comicon artworks on the school’s library wall on Thursday. Submissions were taken over two weeks.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)