Recently, eight students from the Excel Academy of Roseland, part of the Chicago Public Schools’ Options Network, had the opportunity to showcase their artwork and get a taste of the Big Easy in the Windy City.

The students, along with some of their loved ones, attended the first annual Mardi Gras for Mental Health Gala hosted by a local nonprofit organization, the Idell-McCarthy Foundation For Second Chances, at the historical Stan Mansion.

Excel student artwork was on display during the Mardi Gras-themed black-tie event, where attendees were treated to authentic New Orleans cuisine, live entertainment and festive performances and exhibits. Additionally, if the students’ artwork sold, they received 100% of the commission.

“I never thought that an assignment in art class would turn into making some money,” said Alyssa Saffold, who sold a piece of artwork during the event. “I am proud of myself.”

The fundraiser included a mental health and wellness-themed photo exhibit, art for auction, and New Orleans cuisine with traditional dishes such as gumbo, king cake, red beans and rice and more, cooked by Louisiana native Chef Allen.

“This was an excellent experience for our students,” said Tyree Booker, executive director of the Excel Academy of Roseland. “I love that they had the opportunity to network with professional artists. All around great time!”