Core Academy students with Beverly Rogers (second in from left) and artist Michael Dodson (second in from right). Photo by Cierra Pedro.

A Welcome Wall

A new mural at The Rogers Foundation speaks to the nonprofit’s mission to serve immigrant youth in Las Vegas

Covering the entire west side of The Rogers Foundation building at the corner of 9th Street and Garces Avenue is a new mural painted by local artist Michael Dodson. The work pops out amid the tree-lined streets and Spanish colonial revival architecture.

Featuring large American traditional tattoo-style roses, vibrant against a deep purple background, and anchored by a combined brain and heart, it’s designed to encourage understanding and acceptance at a time of uncertainty for immigrant children and families in Southern Nevada.

With half the country upset over Donald Trump’s inflammatory remarks about Mexicans, angry crowds chanting “Build a wall!” and the Obama administration’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy facing an uncertain future, The Rogers Foundation decided to step in and create a wall of its own, something that would represent a more compassionate message and speak to its mission.

The mural, representing logic and reason, came directly out of concerns expressed by students at Core Academy, powered by The Rogers Foundation, that their parents might be deported and the future of their families in limbo, says chair Beverly Rogers.

“We’re here for those undocumented students,” she adds. “This is something that speaks loud and bold about who we are. It’s sort of a symbol of our voices.”

The Rogers Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Beverly and her late husband, Jim Rogers, is an education-based organization serving Nevada students through Educate Nevada Now, which advocates equality in education. Core Academy, just one aspect of the organization, is a program that assists students in a one-on-one partnership from sixth grade through graduation. The program provides mentoring, basic needs (food, clothing, school items), academic enrichment, community service, cultural immersion and character education.

Late last year, Rogers sent a letter to Clark County School District, UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College urging them to act as sanctuaries for undocumented students and staff and their families, and to not give information on immigration status to immigration officials. Nearly half of the students (45.7 percent) in Clark County School District are Latino or Hispanic, including those who are undocumented. Trump has vowed to repeal DACA. In response to Rogers’ letter, Clark County School District trustee Carolyn Edwards has asked the board to consider declaring CCSD an immigration sanctuary.

Photo by Cierra Pedro

Photo by Cierra Pedro

Lindsay Harper, chief inspiration officer of Core Academy, says that because of the inflammatory comments toward immigrants, counselors have been hired to help students concentrate and focus, adding, “It’s been really tense since the day after the election. We’ve been getting kids texting us, asking, ‘Is my family going to be deported?’”

In response, the organization came up with a list of things that could be done, including producing material about bullying and how to respond in a nonviolent way. It also had looked into creating a mural and was searching for a wall when its president and COO Rory Reid pointed out, “We have a wall. We have four walls.”

Dodson was commissioned to do the mural that was completed earlier this year, and describes the work as a visual representation of education, logic, reason, nurturing, compassion and growth, something positive and calming to “combat some of the negative and anxious feelings that I, along with the students, were experiencing.”

DACA was set in place by President Obama in 2012, allowing temporary protection from deportation. President Trump has vowed to end the program, which would affect students all over the United States, including those in Core Academy.

“These are contributing members of our society,” Harper says. “We’re helping them reach their full potential. The thing I see that breaks my heart is that they have so much potential. It’s the society and community that starts tearing them down the minute they enter school.”

For some families, she says, “Education isn’t their top priority. Putting food on the table is. We’re showing the kids how to advocate for themselves. One person can change someone’s life through a conversation. With our kids, it’s one conversation over and over. The divide in this country is socioeconomic status. We’re just leveling the field.”

Rogers, a high-profile philanthropist whose main focus is education, has also served on the board of Black Mountain Institute and gave $10 million to BMI, which is officially titled the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute.

While sitting inside the offices at 9th Street and Garces Avenue, she says of the mural, titled “Conscious Gateway”: “It’s big and bold and beautiful and speaks to who we are as an education foundation. It’s a welcome wall, one that’s not a barrier. It speaks love.”

Vegas Seven