Drawings become graduation tradition
What started as a helpful hand on a class project has grown into an ongoing artistic gift for Peachez Joles.
A volunteer with the Tonganoxie Volunteer Center, Joles draws side-profiles silhouettes of Tonganoxie High seniors each spring.
Joles just completed her 15th year of senior silhouettes.
"They've told me I'm a tradition now and I can't quit," Joles said.
The inspiration for the artwork, however, came from Joles' volunteer work.
Tonganoxie Elementary teacher Deniece Wakeman had volunteers help her make silhouettes of her students as Mother's Day gifts. But Joles found free-hand to be more simple. Also in the first year of Project Grad, or as it was known then, Alternative Party, Joles made the silhouettes and they were hung throughout the building.
"My silhouette was such a huge drawing for the ruffian boys who they thought would not come," Joles said. "There was something about it they wanted.
"Spiked hair, goatees. They came because they wanted their silhouettes."
To obtain the portraits, students must attend Project Grad. The silhouettes are laminated and are tied to red or white string. A mortar board cut-out hangs above the silhouette with students' names -- written in calligraphy by Joles.
Certain teachers allow Joles to have brief silhouette sessions in the back of their classrooms, and most student drawings take fewer than five minutes.
"It just depends on the hair and how many spikes they have," Joles said.
The laminated items reflect the students' garb at graduation -- white caps with red yarn for the girls and red caps with white yarn for the boys.
Joles isn't sure when she'll stop doing the senior artwork. Parents urge her to continue the silhouettes because if they have one silhouette, they want to complete the set with their other children who will be seniors in the coming years.
"I guess that's what makes me want to keep doing it because they really appreciate it," Joles said of the students.
This year, THS had 124 seniors, marking the largest class in Joles' time doing silhouettes. That just adds to her all-time tally, a number she couldn't pinpoint.
Clearly, however, she has made hundreds of silhouettes with no other art experience.
"I never knew I could do art until I became a school volunteer," Joles said.