Before the Crystal Springs high school senior jets off for college on the East Coast, she wanted to leave something special behind for her hometown community to enjoy. And if you've visited Hillsdale Shopping Center over the last month, you might have already stumbled upon her work in progress.
Every morning, Isabelle Decontreros, 17, set up to work on her larger-than-life mural beside the M.A.C. Cosmetics store, ending her sessions with paint-splattered jeans and dyed hands each day.
In lieu of final exams – and to the delight of seniors – each student was granted the month off from schooling to pursue a "passion project."
Bruce Pollock, the head of Crystal Spring's seniors, says it is a tradition that has spanned many years.
"For decades, our seniors have been given the month of May off from classes to dive deep into a subject that they hadn't been able to explore at all, or as deeply, during their high school careers," Pollock said.
When it approached time for Decontreros' project, she knew she wanted to do a mural that represented the town she was leaving behind for college.
"I really just wanted to do something that was really bright and lively and encompassed the San Mateo area, because I’ve grown up here," Decontreros said.
The shopping center jumped on the chance to feature her piece and hopes the mural sends a message to other artists thinking about showcasing their work in the community.
"More art here would be really exciting," Decontreros said. "It has a really positive impact. All of the people walking by are like, 'Wow, this is so amazing that you're putting up this art.'"
Decontreros is heading to Boston College in the fall where one of her majors will be in art.
"I definitely want art to be part of my life going forward," Decontreros said.