High school students at New Testament Christian School in Alexandria partnered with the Memory Project to create hand-drawn portraits for children in Africa.

The Memory Project is a nonprofit that seeks to promote intercultural understanding and connect students around the world through school art programs. Since starting the organization in 2004, 280,000 youth in 55 countries have been involved.

The main goal is to create keepsakes for children who may not have a family photo. To do this, the nonprofit asks artists, the majority of whom are high school students, to create portraits to send back to the children.

Teachers in Cameroon snapped photos of their students and sent them to the Memory Project, and the organization passed on those images to New Testament students in Alexandria.

To prepare for this project, the local high school students practiced drawing proportions and facial features as well as building their observation skills through drawing activities. Once they started, it was each student’s choice whether they wanted to include color or keep the drawing black and white.

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Andrew Lenz, a senior at New Testament Christian School, holds up his portrait of a Cameroon student named Gloria he drew for the Memory Project. “I know mine is not the best out there, but I'm happy I could contribute,” he said. (Contributed)
Andrew Lenz, a senior at New Testament Christian School, holds up his portrait of a Cameroon student named Gloria he drew for the Memory Project. “I know mine is not the best out there, but I'm happy I could contribute,” he said. (Contributed)

Senior Andrew Lenz said that he chose the photo he did because he noticed a commonality.

“I chose to do their portrait because I felt like I could relate to them better because we both have similar glasses,” Lenz said.

Though he typically sticks to grayscale, he said he decided to try something different and explore using color.

“It was a very familiar process since I took an art class last year,” Lenz said. “I start off the process pretty slow, but once I can recognize the face in my drawing just as well as the picture, I start to get really motivated to finish the drawing.”

Sophomore Ashley Larson noticed her detail-oriented nature reigning as she worked on the drawing, adding multiple layers of shading and focusing on specific characteristics as she progressed through many different steps.

“I definitely wanted to try my hardest and do a good job since I knew it was going to go to the person and I wanted them to like it,” Larson said.

Ashley Larson, a sophomore at New Testament Christian School, displays her drawing of Esther, a student from Cameroon. “It was fun to put to use many of the portrait drawing elements such as textures, shading, and lighting that we had learned throughout our art class,” she said. (Contributed)
Ashley Larson, a sophomore at New Testament Christian School, displays her drawing of Esther, a student from Cameroon. “It was fun to put to use many of the portrait drawing elements such as textures, shading, and lighting that we had learned throughout our art class,” she said. (Contributed)