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‘A sign of change’: Rafalski’s butterfly displayed for Mental Health Awareness Month

Paige Rafalski

Paige Rafalski’s billboard for Mental Health Awareness Month goes up on Monday.

The Warren Area High School junior has always considered art more of a hobby.

“Most of my spare time is dedicated to dancing with Molly Dies’ Dance Express Team,” said Rafalski.

She’s had a little more time on her hands for art lately. Warren County is the beneficiary of her talent with her artwork being showcased near the Glade Bridge (middle billboard).

“I drew the butterfly in black and white first and wanted to see what it would look like in color, so I decided to paint it,” said Rafalski.

Photo submitted to Times Observer CORE (Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences) and the Warren County School District teamed up to offer a contest — prior to COVID-19 — to all high school students in Warren County. All students were encouraged to draw art to be chosen to be displayed on billboards throughout Warren County as part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Warren junior Paige Rafalski’s artwork will be displayed on the middle billboard off of the Glade Bridge.

Beside the painting, a quote — “You owe it to yourself to become everything you’ve dreamed of being.”

“I found this quote and thought it went well with the painting because butterflies are often seen as a sign of change,” said Rafalski. “I think it’s important for people to realize that their past or even present situation does not define them, and that there is always hope for the future. I replaced the other half of the butterfly with flowers that symbolize healing, growth, and the ability to move forward with positivity.

“A lot of people in my life are affected by mental health issues in one way or another and I think it’s necessary to open up conversation about it,” said Rafalski. “The negative connotation surrounding the term ‘mental illness’ can make problems worse and stop someone from getting the help they need. I’m glad I can be a part of spreading awareness to a larger audience, and I hope this important message can help the people who are in need of a voice.”

CORE (Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences) and the Warren County School District teamed up to offer a contest — prior to COVID-19 — to all high school students in Warren County. All students were encouraged to draw art to be chosen to be displayed on billboards throughout Warren County as part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

Students’ artwork was chosen by their peers in their schools and sent to Kari Swanson, founder of CORE, who worked with the students and Lamar Advertising to have the billboards made.

Photo submitted to Times ObserverCORE (Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences) and the Warren County School District teamed up to offer a contest — prior to COVID-19 — to all high school students in Warren County. All students were encouraged to draw art to be chosen to be displayed on billboards throughout Warren County as part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Warren junior Paige Rafalski’s artwork will be displayed on the middle billboard off of the Glade Bridge.

CORE purchased billboards for the artwork to be displayed for a one month duration each.

Winners were Olivia Goss, Dakota Hensel, and Elizabeth Kays of Youngsville High School; Hope Hefright from Eisenhower High School; and, from Warren Area High School, Jori O’Neil, and Rafalski.

Rafalski hasn’t decided what college to attend or what to major in. She has time.

“I was planning on visiting several colleges this summer, but I’m not sure that will happen with the way things are right now,” she said.

If she needs to relax and unwind, painting might be the right call.

“The project itself was very relaxing and enjoyable for me,” said Rafalski. “I didn’t originally plan on entering the painting in the contest, but my family convinced me that I should. In the end, I was happy with the way it turned out.”

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