Chalk-In Draws Crowd with Finals Approaching

The stress-relief event provides an outlet for students at the end of the spring 2016 semester.

Lauren Lopaty, sophomore and member of the women's fencing club, makes her mark on H Street during Chalk-In. (Rob Stewart/GW Today)
April 27, 2016

By Tamara Jones

Students hit the pavement and stress bit the dust in a Mary Poppins moment Wednesday as Colonial Health’s annual Chalk-In to alleviate final exam pressure turned H Street into a freestyle pastel mural for the 36th year.

Unwritten papers, unfinished labs and unread chapters were forgotten as people shook off book bags to grab fat pieces of chalk to proclaim love, promote a cause, pay tribute to a favorite musician or scrawl their names to prove they were—for a few stolen minutes in a hectic world—simply here.

“I used to paint in high school, and I haven’t done it in awhile, so this makes me think of that,” said Allie Oaks, a premed sophomore and aspiring cardiologist who left an anatomically correct heart next to the Russian phrases three friends spilling out of their last language class of the year stopped to write. Recapturing a moment of childhood was a welcome reminder “that you still have a little bit of joy left in you” at the end of a tough year, Ms. Oaks added.

“Sometimes people draw a picture of what their stress looks like to let it go,” observed Alexis Janda, associate director of health promotion and prevention services in the Colonial Health Center, which sponsors the event that has become a tradition in Kogan Plaza. “I always feel like the end of spring semester sneaks up on you.”

Tables stocked with mini coloring books, toys, free lemonade and a trail-mix buffet drew cries of delight and shouted “thank you’s” from students pouring out of the library. M&Ms instantly vanished in a small scrum of male students, while graduate student Kelly Rickard clung protectively to her baggie of pistachios and contemplated free stress balls, water yo-yo’s and miniature coloring books, momentarily forgetting her annoyance over a futile search at the library for a book she needed.

“This is my consolation prize,” she decided.

Graduate student Kelly Rickard assesses her work as Ilka Deluque plans her next move during the annual Chalk-In. (Rob Stewart/GW Today)

Back on the sidewalk, sophomore Grace Perks was taking her mind off the paper she had due later in the day on the Bay of Pigs to practice her written Russian with two fellow international affairs majors facing the same proficiency test next week.

“We all just kicked out of Russian class and were, ‘Alright! It’s chalk day! Let’s write in Russian,” explained Jack Wood, who wrote his name and “Everybody Loves Jack” in Russian.

“It’s not about stress so much as denial,” laughed Lauren Lopaty, trying not to think about the final papers, three exams plus that proficiency test she still has coming.

Jack Venezia chalked a white plus and minus sign to replicate the latest album cover of his favorite artist, Frank Turner. “The album is called ‘Positive Songs for Negative People,’ and it’s pretty much self-explanatory,” the psychology sophomore said. “I’ve listened to it a lot.” A member of the GW Frisbee team, Mr. Venezia said he finds “going to the gym and staying active” helpful during crunch time.

Colonial Health Center printouts tucked amid the slinkies and bottles of bubbles offered tips for managing stress, ranging from meditating to eating mackerel to boost mood and memory.

The Chemistry Department’s much-anticipated annual rendering of the periodic table was yet to come, but the street indicated that Antonia was a heartbreaker, the Division of Student Affairs wanted to thank everyone, and Mark Was Right. The hows, whys and whats were questions left –for a few pastel hours—unanswered.

A curious passerby peeks at the chalk drawing of sophomore Jack Venezia, an homage to his favorite music album. (Rob Stewart/GW Today)