Grows leaving legacy to East St. John High School

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2001


PHOTO: MELANIE GROWS, a senior at East St. John High School, is painting a 50-foot mural as a dedication to the school she will graduate from in two months. After graduation, the aspiring artist plans to continue painting, but also wants to attend an art institute to study graphic design. (Staff Photo by Amy Szpara) RESERVE – The mural is 50 feet long, on a board that stretches along a wall outside of the art teacher’s classroom. The painting is an array of children, students of all races and types, a symbol of what the school holds within its walls. The art is a gift a local senior is leaving to her school, her dedication to the place where she spent her high school years. Melanie Grows is a senior at East St. John High School in Reserve. She attends class part of the day and works as a receptionist for the Port of South Louisiana during the second half of the day. She is working hard during the months she has left in high school to finish a mural she will leave behind. Grows, daughter of Gisele Pierre and Ricky Grows, has loved art since she was a young child, joining the Visually Talented Art Program when she was in second grade at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School. She has remained in the program ever since and still studies under the direction of Janine Ward, her beloved art teacher. The talented teen remembers the comic strip she created in first grade that determined her entrance into the program. It was of a girl and boy playing ball, and the ball rolled into the street. The kids knew better than to run into the street to retrieve the ball. Her drawing depicted talent, and she began the program the following year. Grows, who plans a career in graphic design and is now looking into art institutes, has received several accolades for her creative ability. She designed the Honor Roll Roundup T-shirts for 2000, adding a new millennium theme including computers to the picture of the “Ed U. Gator” design. She also helped promote education in St. John Parish by creating a poster used throughout the parish. The aspiring artist, who has been on the honor roll since first grade, is also looking forward to displaying her work for other students in an art show at the end of the school year. Along with other seniors, Grows will get a special section to show her work to her peers, teachers and other visitors. One memorable experience for Grows was when she was chosen to go to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts summer program. She was able to attend the school in June and July and received a half credit toward high school. She auditioned and passed and was funded to attend. “It was a good experience,” said Grows. “It showed me a lot of new techniques to use in my artwork. I got to see what techniques others use.” Grows said her favorite type of painting is portrait work. Each senior art student is required to dedicate a piece of art to East St. John before graduation, and Grows decided to do the enormous mural. Her teacher, Ward, added, “So, when they become rich and famous, we can say Look, we have their work.'” She laughed, but shortly after, her eyes welled up. She talked about how much she would miss Grows. “Melanie is one of the finest young ladies I’ve known. She’s talented. If I could have a daughter, it would be her. I have no doubts about Melanie doing well in the future, no doubts about her ability,” said Ward. Grows, who plans to study out of state, wants to do gallery paintings on the side as she works as a graphics artist. “I’ll come back from time to time to share my art with Ms. Ward,” she said.