These students painted their parking spots, and the results are a win for arts education.
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A few weeks ago, Martha Caldera tweeted a photo of her parking spot at West Orange High School that went insanely viral because, well ... just look at it.

‌The only thing that's going to motivate me to wake up for school tomorrow is pulling up in my parking spot 🙏🏽😎 pic.twitter.com/O88chiYyag— Martha Caldera (@ayeitsmarthaaa) August 21, 2016

Martha loves the rapper Drake and is also often late to school, so she decided to paint a clever take on his album titled "If You’re Reading This It's Too Late." Obviously, lots of people empathized with her message, with more than 24,000 Twitter users retweeting the photo.


"I'm happy my high school lets seniors do this, it's awesome!" Martha said.

Meanwhile, Mark Hamilton and his son decided to paint a spot dedicated to "Napoleon Dynamite" — a favorite movie of theirs.

‌Had a great time painting my son's school parking spot with him today. Laughs were shared and memories were made. pic.twitter.com/nFPUUNPwV4— Mark E Hamilton (@MarkEHamlton) August 15, 2016

"My son was elected Senior Class President. This was during his campaign. 'Vote for Pedro' came up often in discussion. It fit," wrote Mark.

Since the students and parents seem to love this creative outlet, West Orange High School has turned painting parking spots into a yearly tradition.

Here's a shot of all the spots from a drone that one student's father (who also happens to be a professional photographer) took in August:

‌Taken one day after all the art was completed. Photo by TK Photography.‌

His daughter Sarah's spot was inspired by her favorite Disney movie, "Tangled":

‌Sarah sitting on her parking spot. Photo by TK Photography. ‌

Most of the seniors who painted their spots drew inspiration from something personally meaningful to them. Whether it's a song, a movie, or a famous quote, they thought out of the box to bring each idea to painted fruition.

And West Orange isn't the only school doing this. Several high schools in Texas have also adopted the painting practice.

‌🌸 senior parking spot 017' 🌸 pic.twitter.com/o9Iln6gZMQ— ✿ mia rose ✿ (@_miarose1098_) August 15, 2016‌‌so it begins @EliseHutson senior parking spot. Tomorrow I will have a college & high school sr and a high school jr😢 pic.twitter.com/keRex0EsqY— Heather Hutson (@HeatherMHutson) August 21, 2016‌‌Did something I never do & decided my parking spot didn't have to be perfect- it's a mess but I like it 💛 #senior pic.twitter.com/loEq0MZM8y— Faith Hart (@mynameisnotface) August 22, 2016‌‌This is how my niece painted her senior year parking spot. #FridayNightLights pic.twitter.com/eK5xYvNpld— David Hudgins (@DavidHudgins3) August 15, 2016

It's incredibly refreshing to see schools embracing artistic expression this way, especially considering how many art programs have been cut since the 2008 recession.

According to U.S. News & World Report, funding has been cut from more than 80% of schools in the United States in the last eight years, and the first things to go are almost always art programs.

This is a real shame because studies have shown that students who are exposed to art education are actually more proficient in reading, writing, and math.

Not only are art courses vital to students' development, they can be instrumental in building skills needed for those coveted, high-paying jobs.

Drew Faust, president of Harvard University, put it succinctly: "The ability to innovate—a skill that nine of out ten employers agree is the most important for new hires—requires thinking beyond immediate needs and making creative leaps. Where better to model this approach than in the arts and humanities?"

Even though it may seem like a simple project, allowing students to express themselves through painting their parking spaces sends an important message to the rest of the education community: Art has an impact on our present and our future.

‌Photo by TK Photography. ‌

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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via Matt Radick / Flickr

Joe Biden reversed Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military earlier this year, allowing the entire LGBTQ community to serve for the first time.

Anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. military goes as far back as 1778 when Lieutenant Frederick Gotthold Enslin was convicted at court-martial on charges of sodomy and perjury. The military would go on to make sodomy a crime in 1920 and worthy of dishonorable discharge.

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