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UNMC students paint mural along Keystone Trail

UNMC students paint mural along Keystone Trail

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Underpass Mural Photo

UNMC students work on a mural beneath a pedestrian walkway on the Keystone Trail. Charlie King, who organized the project, said the students hoped to make a positive difference and leave a mark on their community.

Students in the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s new master’s of genetic counseling program know that DNA is what makes up a person’s body, but actions are what make up their hearts.

That’s why the UNMC students chose to spend a rainy Saturday morning covering graffiti and painting a mural beneath a pedestrian bridge on the Keystone Trail north of Pine Street near Aksarben Village.

When finished Sunday evening, the mural will depict a DNA strand with the phrase, “We Stand Together.”

Charlie King, a second-year student in the two-year program and a native of Rapid City, South Dakota, said he began working on the project last year, obtaining approval from the Omaha Parks Department and the Omaha Public Art Commission.

The DNA strand, he said, symbolizes the program’s focus, while the phrase is a call for unity in the midst of social and racial unrest.

The program trains students to be genetic counselors — professionals who help patients navigate the process of genetic testing. Often, King said, testing can reveal medical predispositions that require checkups, screenings or referrals to experts.

King said he and many of the other students in the program are from out of state but want to leave their mark on the Omaha community and make a positive difference.

He said the students feel welcome in Omaha, and while they may only live here for a short time, they feel the need to be active in the community.


Sixteen students enrolled in the master’s degree in genetic counseling program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Allied Health Professions are painting a mural along the Keystone Trail. The student-designed mural will depict a DNA strand — to signify the students’ program — accompanied by the words “We Stand Together.”

King said the 16 students in the program will continue to look for ways to serve the community. The program is only two years old, he said, and students in the inaugural class that will graduate this spring hope to instill a culture of service.

While the weather was less than ideal Saturday, King said the painters were in good spirits.

“Everybody’s in a good mood,” he said, “and we’re all just happy to be out here together.”

Michelle Willes, a first-year student in the program, said she was excited to work on a project that will beautify and improve the community. She has only lived in Omaha since August, but she said she has enjoyed the city so far and has felt welcome in the community.

As the program grows, Willes said, she’s hopeful that the students can hold more volunteer events like this one.

“We’re getting this out there so that people can see we have resources, and there’s a lot more we can do in the community,” she said.

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