RUSSELL — Grabbing a friend’s hand for support, Jaclyn Schulte stretched as far as she could to reach over her large canvas with a second layer of paint.

But this wasn’t a typical school art project. Her canvas was the parking spot at Russell High School she paid $5 to reserve for the school year — and mark it with a paint design of her choice.

The project is a first for RHS, and perhaps for northwest Kansas.

“I’ve seen some bigger schools like in Kansas City do it, but not around here,” Schulte said. “It’s cool that we are doing it.

“And you’re not going to have people steal your spot.”

More than 30 members of the school’s senior class participated in the activity. Besides ensuring parking spot security for the remainder of the school year, it provided an opportunity to be creative and raise funds for a new school service.

Organizers decided to keep the participation fee low so many students could participate, but all proceeds raised will help establish a school food pantry to help struggling families.

Painting day was last weekend. By mid-afternoon Sunday, the senior class parking lot was being transformed into a colorful patchwork ranging from muted black and navy to bright white and cheerful teal and shades of blue.

Each student had the opportunity to design their own painting, but was required to get administrative approval before starting work. Some paint was donated by a local business, but students were responsible for obtaining the exterior latex paint they needed in certain colors.

“We have a lot of creative kids,” said RHS Principal Donna Schmidt.

The school plans to fly a drone above the finished parking lot to capture the students’ creations, which the students will be asked to paint over with black paint at the end of the year.

The project was started by senior Autumn Karst, who saw other schools doing similar projects. She hopes it could be the start of a new senior class tradition.

“I thought it would be a good idea to raise money,” Karst said. “We’re going to open a food pantry with it.”

Karst and her friend, Abigail Cross, reserved two spots next to each other and were working to create a larger scene inspired by a yin-yang. Their design featured a paisley looking pattern with cheerful colors.

“It took us a week to think of what we wanted to do,” Cross said.

Several students were creating monograms of their initials, while other designs reflected personal hobbies and interests. Senior Micah Nuss, with the help of his mom, Katy, was painting the silhouette of a bright green deer’s head on a black background.

He enjoys hunting in his spare time, but needed a bit of artistic help to capture the detail of the deer’s head and antlers, he said.

“I like it so far. I think it’s a good idea,” Nuss said of the project. “It makes the student body come out a little more.”

“It makes being a senior a little more fun, I guess,” Katy Nuss agreed as she worked to touch up the deer’s antlers.

Several students agreed the painting was more difficult than they had expected, due to the porous, uneven surface. But they pressed on, looking forward to the finished project.

On the other end of the parking lot, Justine Weigel and Nathan Lorenc jumped at the opportunity to reserve two neighboring parking spots closest to the school’s entrance.

“I did it because I’m always late to school,” Lorenc admitted with a laugh.

His parking space was going to feature an initial monogram in contrasting black and white, while Weigel took a humorous approach to her design, which simply will read: “If you’re reading this, I’m late.”