This summer, students at Sahuarita High School are gaining invaluable work experience and contributing to their community through a unique program that blends creativity with civic engagement.

Despite the break from regular classes, a group of dedicated students is hard at work on a special art project that will soon be showcased around town.

The sounds of grout mix fills the air as these young artists race to meet their tight three-week deadline to create custom tiles that will beautify some of the towns utilities.

“So its a trash can all the way around, explained Draven Martinez, a student involved in the project, on where the tiles would be placed. Then the bench were doing the sides, like the bottom and the part you rest your back against.”

This initiative is part of the Transportation Art by Youth program, funded by the Pima Association of Governments.

The program not only provides summer jobs for teens but also focuses on creating public works of art that benefit the community.

Joseph Poole, an art teacher at SHS helping to run the program, elaborated on the programs goals.

“We hire high school students and we employ them hourly to design, create, and install public works projects throughout town,” Poole said.

Beyond the artistic skills gained, students also get an insiders look at local government operations.

“They see how decisions are made in government, Poole said. And how its sort of a slow process of back and forth, getting approval or getting requests to adjust.”

One of the programs key elements is teaching students the importance of collaboration.

“A lot of times artistic pursuits are very individualistic, Poole said. But in this case, everybody sort of has to work together on the same ideas.”

This week a cement slab was set down this week on Pima Mine Road, where the finished trash barrel and bench will be located. According to the Parks and Recreation Department, this installation is scheduled for the week of June 24.

For students like Mia Ramirez, a 2024 SHS graduate, the experience is more than just a summer job.

“Its a privilege, she said. I go from like 8 to 12 then I get to go home, and I get to know that Ive done something for my community too.”