Local artists Sophie Mandia and Deondre Linder have left their mark.

A new mural designed by the teen artists from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) was unveiled Wednesday at Proctor Park in East Utica.

YEA transforms local middle- and high-school students into entrepreneurs, and through the year-long program, students in grades six through 12 generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors and launch their own companies, according to a news release from Berkshire Bank, a long-time supporter of the YEA program.

YEA is now in 168 communities across America and has been in the Utica area with Mohawk Valley Community College for eight years.

Berkshire representatives said the Proctor Park event was special not only because it marked the return of its XTEAM nation into the community, but also served as a representation of its BE FIRST values in action. It also was the the first in-person company volunteer project since COVID-19 arrived.

In partnership with the United Way of the Mohawk Valley, volunteers helped paint the new mural over an old Berkshire Bank logo with an all-inclusive X, a permanent reminder to the community that everyone is welcome at Berkshire Bank, according to a news release.

“To watch these talented young artists and business owners has been nothing but impressive. Changes like these in our communities will help spark change and positivity,” said Matthew Nicholl, VP, Berkshire Business Banking and Central NY Volunteer Council co-chairman.

About the artists:

Mandia is a 15-year-old student at New Hartford Senior High School. She is a member of The Latin Club Masque and Comic Book Club. She is a 2019 graduate of the YEA, where she created her business, Adventure Spirit Entertainment, and became the author and illustrator of a comic book and novel.

Deondre is a 19-year-old Utica native and 2019 graduate of Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School. In the fall, he will be a sophomore at Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he is studying graphic and interactive design with entrepreneur studies. He is a 2018 graduate of the YEA, where he started his business, Deo Art & Design, and launched his signature product — a custom Utica skyline.