When construction began on an apartment complex next to McKinley Preparatory High School seven months ago, administrators worried it would be disruptive.

But the project “ended up being a godsend,” McKinley headmaster Velecia Saunders said, because it gave six students the chance to paint a mural on a large piece of construction plywood behind the school.

The mural, which highlights the importance of safety, spruced up a longtime eyesore at the Fenway school, Saunders said, and launched a new partnership between the Skanska construction company and the students.

“It’s a very nice mural,” she said. “It beautifies the area where Skanska has been working.”


The mural portrays silhouettes of both the students and the construction workers, along with handprints from McKinley pupils. The mural faces a walkway behind the school.

The painting speaks to the mentoring dynamic that formed when Skanska began working on the apartment building, Saunders said.

They’ve always connected with our staff, with our students. . . . They’ve been super wonderful,” she said. “This partnership has been really good for our kids.”

McKinley students have been diagnosed with emotional impairment, which means “they’ve all experienced a lack of success” elsewhere, Saunders said.

For many of the students, working on the mural has been validating.

“Our kids really felt important,” she said. “That’s a lot for our kids.”

Skanska taught the students about having a career in construction, and the importance of getting a job after high school or college. Once the concrete is laid, some workers will give a tour of the complex to students who are interested in construction as a career.

Although only a few students worked on the mural, the project has had a profound effect on the school environment, Saunders said. Others have already asked how they can get involved with the Skanska partnership.


“Their excitement and their energy around it has really had a domino effect,” she said.

J.D. Capelouto can be reached at jd.capelouto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jdcapelouto.