PITTSBURG — St. Mary’s Colgan High School students and several others across the nation had the opportunity to donate hand-drawn portraits of children in Syria through the Memory Project.

The Memory Project is a charitable nonprofit organization which donates portraits students have made for other youth around the world. The organization gives the portraits to youth from various countries who are facing “violence, disasters, extreme poverty, neglect and loss of parents.”

“We want the portraits to help the children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their well being and to act as meaningful pieces of personal history in the future,” the Memory Project website read.

SMC students Becca Spears, Kelsey Curran, Victoria Yoakam, Julia Kerr, Delaney Cedeño, Janeen Lara, Riley Beihl, Kate Radell and Ella Battitori volunteered to take on the task. They each were given a photograph of a Syrian child from which they drew the portrait.

“I thought it was really interesting that — for kids who had little to nothing who had left behind their homes and were living in refugee camps — it was something that we can give them which they can be proud of,” Kerr said. “They know someone else was caring for them from around the world and they had people who would take time out of their day to think about this child.”

Radell agreed.

“Knowing they have so little and us knowing what is going on in other countries, we thought it was important to help them even as small as a portrait,” she said. “Its special.”

On their own time, with only the photograph, age of the child and favorite color, the students began the hours-long process of drawing a portrait.

Kerr said she was nervous to give them a portrait that did not resemble the photograph, she went back and forth fixing details here and there.

“I came in almost every day, I spent three or four days just working on the eyes.” Kerr said.

The impact of what they had done didn’t hit home until they received the confirmation video of the Syrian youth opening their portraits, Cedeño said.

“I don't think I realized what it would do until after they received the pictures,” Cedeño said. “We received a video of them getting our drawings and we saw the look on their face and excitement.

“We didn’t really know what we were doing until we saw that.”

Along with the portraits, the SMC students sent along information about themselves just like they did.

SMC Art Teacher Dawn Carlson said she is proud of the students’ decision to volunteer to create the portraits. The students didn’t receive a grade for the project.

“That makes me really proud as a teacher that they would do that without any reward,” Carlson said.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.