Skip to main content
North Syracuse - click for home

Gillette Road Middle School's Paint the Mile Club: Transforming anxiety into art

This May, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Gillette Road Middle School saw a fantastic display of creativity, community and student engagement with the installation of inspiring yard signs by the P2 and Paint the Mile Club (PTMC). The signs were put up after school on May 1 with the help of dedicated families, adding a vibrant touch as well as encouragement to the school’s track.

Gillette’s PTMC was created during the 2022-23 school year by fifth-grade teacher Melanie Hurley and one of the school’s art teachers, Ms. Warner Varno. The club was born from a simple yet powerful idea. During Ms. Varno’s first full year at Gillette, she noticed that many fifth graders were anxious about running the mile, a mandatory part of their physical education curriculum designed to track heart health. Wanting to bring positivity to this experience, Ms. Varno and Ms. Hurley created the Paint the Mile Club with the goal of encouraging students through art and making the mile run a more uplifting and less daunting task.
Thanks to a grant from the North Syracuse Education Foundation (NSEF), the PTMC was able to bring their vision to life. Over the course of two school years, students worked diligently to create and install the yard signs, overcoming real-life challenges faced by public artists. The project not only beautified the school grounds but also instilled a sense of accomplishment and teamwork among the students.

The club’s mission didn’t stop at the track. Students also engage in various P2 (Positivity Project) initiatives around the school. Currently, club members are collaborating to design and paint the staff restroom tables with cheerful and humorous messages, a project inspired by their custodian, Helen Bradshaw. Additionally, the students are donating their original paintings to Gillette for framing and display, as well as to the NSEF auction and fundraiser.

The P2 and Paint the Mile Club is a shining example of how creativity, community support and dedication can transform a simple idea into a movement that benefits the entire school. 

Many thanks to Warner Varno for sharing pictures and details of this inspiring project. Warner also shared the following sentiment, “We are incredibly proud of our students and grateful to the NSEF for their support, making this beautiful and meaningful project possible.” Ms. Varno also wanted to extend her thanks to her wonderful parent volunteer Kerri Revette for assisting with the project so extensively this year.