Enterprising Riverside Middle School student Holahan displays some artistic flare


EAST PROVIDENCE — A Riverside Middle School student is working on her second inspirational mural for the school after finishing her first earlier this term in November.

Makayla Holahan, an eighth grader and honors student at RMS, was asked to create her latest mural by robotics teacher John Marsula. Mr. Marsula had seen a previous mural Makayla had painted for the school’s fitness room and asked if she could create a robotics-themed piece on the wall outside his classroom.

Along with her friends and fellow students Julia Roque and Kristy Sittinger, Makayla began work on the mural in February. Mr. Marsula asked for the mural to represent the theme of “building a better future.” The mural depicts a Lego man standing alongside a "Cyberman," a cyborg from the science fiction television series "Doctor Who."

Makayla said she was inspired by the usage of Lego bricks in the robotics class.

“It would be pretty cool turning the Legos into real robots,” she added.

The idea for Makayla’s first mural came from physical education and health teacher Mike Solitro. As part of the school’s fitness room, Mr. Solitro wanted the artwork’s theme to be self-motivation. He provided Makayla with a quote from author Stephen R. Covey: “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.”

Mr. Solitro, who is also the head girls' basketball coach at East Providence High School, was impressed with the initiative Makayla showed.

"She asked if she could do it. I gave her the quote and she just went with it," Mr. Solitro said. "Makayla did it on her own time. I thought it was a nice gesture on her part."

Makayla said the image of fire really stuck with her and she surrounded the quote with painted flames.

“I thought it would be cool to do fire around it since it represents the motivation,” she explained.

The mural was completed over three weeks in November during the evenings after school. She was aided by her mother, Kathy, who provided all of the art materials and was later reimbursed by the RMS PTA.

Though she doesn’t consider her hobby to be anything serious, Makayla said she’s always been interested in art and that she has improved due to her enjoyment of the activity. She is considering pursuing a career as an artist, but has not decided on a future profession just yet.

RMS Principal Stephen Prew said that Makayla’s projects exemplify the variety of creative outlets the school offers its students.

“We’re providing opportunities for our students to expand and express themselves,” he said. “We want them to be able to showcase their talents even beyond just the classroom.”

— Story by Joseph D'Amico, eastbayri.com intern


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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.