Carson Schiller’s inspiration came from a family friend.
Renee White, a nurse at Northside Hospital, gave a face to the battle health care workers wage daily during the coronavirus pandemic.
“(Seeing White) kind of sparked the idea,” said Schiller, a junior swimmer at Wesleyan. “She came home and I would see how tired she was at the end of the day and I really wanted to give thanks to all those people, the doctors, the scientists and the nurses because they work really hard. I wanted to show my appreciation and my school’s appreciation for what they do.”
Schiller’s idea came to reality Wednesday afternoon.
She led a small group that placed 250 encouraging signs — a project dubbed “Signs for the Frontlines” — along the roads and parking decks at the main Northside Hospital campus. Each featured a unique piece of artwork from students at Wesleyan.
Some were drawn by kindergartners. Others by high-schoolers. All were designed to provide motivation, support and gratitude for hospital staff as the arrive and depart from the hospital.
“It was so cool,” Schiller said of seeing the project’s completion. “I loved seeing my initial idea that sparked in my head come to life really and bringing a couple of special people with me to help me put them up. A lot of nurses and doctors drove by and rolled down their window and said thank you so much. It was a really cool moment to express my gratitude and my school’s gratitude.”
Schiller was joined in the planting stage of the signs by her parents, Derek and Kristin, Wesleyan’s high school dean of student life Mary Stephenson and her inspiration, White. They posted the 250 signs created by roughly 230 Wesleyan art students ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.
“We had a lot of cute drawings of nurses (from younger students), and a lot of thank you written in crayon,” Schiller said.
Schiller launched the sign project with a mid-April email to the school that proposed the idea and gave instructions for how to submit artwork. She followed it up with a video to drum up more interest.
From there, the art flowed in and she sent each one to Wesleyan parent Gregg Stopher, whose Global Signs company donated and printed all the signs. She then worked with Northside’s director of engineering on sign placement.
“It was a pleasure to work with Carson on this project,” Stephenson said. “She deserves 100 percent of the credit. From the initial idea to the follow through of actually putting the signs up, Carson showed tremendous initiative and gumption to turn her vision into a reality. Working with Carson was inspiring, honestly. She wanted to encourage frontline healthcare workers and also bolster the sense of community in the student body, and she had a creative vision to accomplish both. I’m very proud of her and grateful to have been a part of it.”
Part of the satisfaction for Schiller — a year-round swimmer for Spartan Aquatic Club — was the knowledge the signs will accomplish their desired goals for Northside staff in the coming months, but she was just as pleased with what it did for Wesleyan students, teachers, faculty and other supporters in a time of forced digital learning.
“I was so excited to bring our community together since we can’t be together in the classroom,” Schiller said.