Union student creates mural to inspire young girls

Kiana Miller '16 volunteers at Girls Inc.
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Union student creates mural to inspire young girls

Kiana Miller ’16 loves to draw and paint. So when vandals splattered graffiti on the building of Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region, where she volunteers, Miller grabbed her paint brushes and got to work.

Spending a few hours a week since the start of the fall term, Miller took the lead in creating a mural that replaced the graffiti with a dazzlingly array of colorful images to inspire girls to be “strong, smart and bold” – the organization’s mission.

“Now the girls can come outside and not have to look at profanity,” said Miller. “The mural makes the whole neighborhood nicer.”

A double major in studio fine arts and Africana studies, Miller has been a volunteer with Girls Inc. since her sophomore year. She has helped with a homework program and taught a spoken word class in performance poetry for the group, located in one of Schenectady’s toughest neighborhoods.

Growing up in the Bronx, Miller was involved with a program similar to Girls Inc., a national non-profit that aims to educate and inspire young women across America.

“They really helped with my self-esteem, so when an opportunity to do something for the girls here came up, I wanted to get involved,” said Miller.

Getting involved is Miller’s mantra. It was also part of her pitch in her college essay while a student at the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science. Besides helping out at Girls Inc., she volunteers at the Kenney Community Center. She is also co-president of the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir and Heavenly Liturgical Dance Ministry, and works in Admissions as a senior intern interviewing the incoming class.

A member of Tri Delta sorority and two Greek honor societies, Miller rounds out her Union experience participating in mini-terms. This winter, she will travel to Paris for three weeks, following her Community Service mini-term, Civil Rights Public History mini-term and the South Africa mini-term.

Even with a packed schedule, Miller is determined to complete the nearly-finished mural. Funded in part by a grant from the Schenectady Foundation, the mural received some attention this week at the foundation’s announcement of a major initiative, Call to Action for Schenectady’s Youth.

“This mural exemplifies how our girls can be empowered, that we as a community not only listen, but we follow up and act, and that everyone's voice is important,” said Ashley Jeffrey Bouck, Girls Inc. executive director. “Kiana has been a wonderful volunteer and role model, and this mural project is above and beyond what any of us could have imagined.”