After painting over graffiti under Highway 29 along Napa Creek for a few hours Tuesday morning, a group of Vintage High School students concluded it was a lot harder to clean up walls than to spray them.
“I never saw myself doing this,” said David Deharo, 16, a senior, after he and his schoolmates used 15 gallons of paint to remove graffiti from six walls under Highway 29 north of First Street.
The teens, most of whom admitted to spraying graffiti in the past, are turning a page in their lives thanks to the Legacy Youth Project, a program for former gang members and other at-risk youths.
Tuesday’s community beautification project was an all-volunteer effort, part of Legacy’s four-day summer program. The nine teens included two 2014 Vintage High graduates heading to Napa Valley College this fall, said Napa Police Officer Omar Salem, Vintage High’s school resource officer.
Removing graffiti, in a sense, helps the students remove part of their past identity, Salem said. “It’s good for the kids to come out here,” he said.
Salem, who works with Legacy coach Carlos Hagedorn, chose the spot at the suggestion of the city’s graffiti removal worker. This is a common shortcut for pedestrians and cyclists who want to cross from one side of Highway 29 to the other without rubbing up against the vehicle traffic of First Street. Caltrans also gave the green light.
The city supplied the paint and rags to remove cobwebs and prepare the walls while CSI Paint of Napa donated other supplies, including plastic buckets, sticks and rollers.
The teens, working in teams of three, crouched and stretched to reach the spots where folks had spray painted over the years. While there was some “OK” art, including a picture of a sun, most was a mix of foul words and gang graffiti.
The job took about three hours, far less time than Salem had anticipated. In the end, what was left was six clean, white walls.
“We’ve got something done,” said Fernando Fernandez, 17, a junior, before students started loading their equipment into Salem’s police cruiser before lunch. “Pretty cool.”
On Wednesday, the Legacy teens are hiking Skyline Park. On Thursday, activities include resume writing.
Legacy is in its second year at Vintage High School. Activities include daily, campus-based mentoring, team building and academic tutoring.