by Derek Lacey / Staff Writer

T-shirts can send a powerful message, whether it’s voting, working to cure cancer, or in the case of Rocky River High School students, helping to build a school in South Sudan.

Students participated in a painting party hosted by the Rocky River Optimist Club, InterClub, and Any1Can, a project by Charlotte-based non-profit Mothering Across Continents, that focuses on T-shirts.

Students discuss global issues in class, then, at the painting party, students choose one of seven causes and paints a T-shirt about that cause.

The shirts will be shown at Washington D.C. to do a program at the end of April, just after an exhibition at Sensoria, Central Piedmont Community College’s annual arts festival.

For $10, students purchased tickets to the painting party, money that will go to building a school in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, founded in 2011. An anonymous donor will also match the donations if more than 100 tickets are sold.

Steve Schmitt, adviser of the InterClub Council at Rocky River was instrumental in organizing the effort, said that he likes providing opportunities like this to help get students more involved in global awareness.

The seven focus areas that the students chose from are: poverty and the global economy, hunger and nutrition, water and infrastructure, peace and conflict resolution, access to education, environment and climate change, and social attitudes and tolerance.

Rocky River joins 15 other high schools participating in the Any1Can program, all raising money for the same effort: Raising South Sudan, a project to build schools in the country; a goal which they helped to accomplish last year.

Patricia Shafer, chief catalyst at Mothering Across Continents, said, “Last year, we engaged with a smaller number of schools for the global class, which is where the Any1Can project came from, and the students raised $40,000 that contributed to an actual school building in South Sudan. It was the first permanent primary school started and completed in Unity State South Sudan since Independence in 2011.”

The South Sudanese school is the physical goal of the project, but there is also a goal that will not appear on a map.

“There’s also another goal really, and that’s to show that youth can be leaders, they can help engage in seven global issues,” Shafer said, adding that the project is about empowering youth, engaging communities, and being change-makers.”

Mothering Across Continents, and their project Any1Can has involved many high school students with global issues, something that Shafer hopes stays with them.

“I think one thing that we hope they take away is to understand that global issues are really things that happen in your backyard and they can happen in the most far away, remote places,” said Shafer. “And so you have a common interest in these global issues.”