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Chairs for Change: Helping girls around the world
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Chairs for Change: Helping girls around the world


A group of Coconino High School and Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy students and local artists are raising funds to put girls around the world in classroom chairs by building, decorating and auctioning off … chairs.

Each student or artist or group can either build a chair or redecorate an old chair. The chairs are auctioned off each year at the Coconino Center for the Arts. The funds raised by the Chairs for Change auction go to different nonprofit groups that support education for young women and girls in countries across the world.

Students are encouraged to build, paint, reupholster, draw and decorate the chairs any way they want.

Abigail Stentson and Elea Ziegelbum, two students from FALA, are working on their second chair for the program.

“It wasn’t until this year that I really understood what this means to some of these girls,” said Ziegelbum. Ziegelbum and Stentson were two members of a group of FALA students who were able to make a trip to Nicaragua to see one of the girls they sponsored graduate from high school.

“It made it much more important to me. I saw how dedicated those girls were to succeeding in school,” she said.

Stentson agreed, “It really amplified everything that we’re doing. They’ve made such a commitment.”

Laura Locke, the Family and Consumer Science teacher at Coconino High School, worked the chairs into her second level Interior Design classes. This is the second year the class is doing the Chairs for Change program.

Abury Smith, an Interior Design student at Coconino High School, said she thought the project was the perfect and amazing way to raise money and awareness for girls’ education.

Haley Singer, another Coconino Interior Design student, said she was inspired by the work that Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani woman who has fought to educate girls worldwide, has done and wanted to help.

Yousafzai once said, “I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is an education. And I fear no one.”

FALA Art Educator Janeece Henes helped to bring the Chairs for Change idea to Flagstaff about four years ago after seeing reports about Naomi Natale’s One Million Bones exhibit at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2013. The exhibit featured around one million hand crafted “bones” made out of clay and papier-mache and was designed to draw attention to genocide in the world. Natale also created The Cradle Project in 2006, a fundraiser that collected artists from around the world to create 550 cradles designed as art project to draw attention to the number of children in Africa who are orphaned or die of disease or poverty.

Henes liked the idea of art as fundraiser and at the time Yousafzai was in the news. Teaching students to give back to the community and become a part of it, as well as learning about the arts, is a main mission of FALA.

Henes combined the idea of fundraising for girls’ education and art as a fundraiser into the local Chairs for Change and One New Education program. She then coaxed local artists and students into making used furniture into pieces of art or building their own furniture as art.

The goal every year is to raise at least $5,000, Henes said. Depending on where the girl who receives the money lives, it can take as little as $50 to as much as $600 to send one girl to school for a year.

The reporter can be reached at or (928)556-2253.


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Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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