Rogers High School teacher hand-paints football fields to honor class of 2020

SPOKANE, Wash. — A year high school seniors will never forget made way for a tribute they will always remember.

Like thousands of other seniors across the country, Dana Tran just saw her senior year at Rogers High School get cut short.

“Coming in my freshman year, I never thought it would be like this, but now, I don’t want to leave honestly,” she said. “My last four years at Rogers has been something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

One of Tran’s most memorable moments at Rogers came just last week, when she and her classmates discovered their names had been hand-painted onto the football field on campus. Their names were painted by someone whose school year also got cut short.

“It was tough,” said Tom Pettoello, a teacher at Rogers. “I think, we like working with kids, obviously, if you’re a teacher — and then when they’re all of a sudden taken away, then you start thinking, ‘well, what can I do?'”

When Pettoello is not teaching art to students like Tran, he makes a living creating on-field logos for teams across the northwest. Knowing this, the assistant principal at East Valley High School reached out to Pettoello, in hopes he could paint the school’s logo on midfield. Pettoello took it a step further, offering to hand-paint the names of each senior onto the field.

“It’s actually pretty cool. I mean, sometimes it’s just a name, but then you’ll see a brother and a sister and then it reminds you that these are real people, they’re not just a name on the ground,” he said. “You know, when you see a kid like Dana, who’s a great kid, and we have many great kids here at Rogers — when I’m painting those names on the field, every time I painted the name of a kid I knew, it just kind of brought back memories.”

The fields at East Valley and Rogers were just the beginning of Pettoello’s tributes. He told 4 News Now other schools in the area — even as far as San Diego — have asked him to paint their fields with the names of students like Tran.

“Every senior is scared of graduating and nervous, but we all look forward to it, so just kind of having the year cut off short is really upsetting,” Tran said. “It’s kind of a recognition for all the hard work we’ve put into schooling all of our 13 years of school. Having it end early was devastating, but being honored like this is really amazing.”