Southwood MS art classes help homeless kids ‘Dream in Color’

By Gary Alan Ruse….

Sixth grade student Jose Broche shows his sketchbook design and the pillowcase.

Art magnet students in several classes at Southwood Middle School spent hours on a special project painting imaginative pictures and designs on new pillowcases to give to homeless children to lift their spirits.

Conceived by student Taylor “Tae Tae” Davis, the project is being done in partnership with volunteer organization Hands On Miami and with the aid of a $1,000 grant from the Starbucks Philanthropy Committee and Tee Juice Fabric Art Markers donated by Jacquard Products.

Davis, who has in the past succeeded in securing donated art supplies from major manufacturers to help her art classes and in organizing art projects to help homeless children, explained what this one is for.

“We’re painting pillowcases on the front with a really pretty design, and on the back it says ‘Dream in Color,’ and when they’re done I’m going to go to a homeless shelter and hand them out to the kids,” Davis said. “Dream in color means that when they put their heads down at night they want to dream in colors, so that’s our slogan.”

Her teacher for the third year in the Magnet Visual Arts Class is Lesley McKinley, who lauds Davis as someone who sets high goals for both her academic and artistic pursuits, and takes the same approach to her philanthropic pursuits.

“She’s very special and it’s been a pleasure to have her in my class,” McKinley said. “Our students are decorating pillowcases which many of them have donated for this particular project, and they came up with designs, which were sketchbook assignments. These will be given out through the year to children in different situations who might really appreciate something real personal to keep with them.”

McKinley said that not only magnet students were getting involved, but elective art students and even photography students as well.

“This classroom has roughly 25 students and next door has 25,” she said. “By the end of the day we will have roughly 150 kids who have participated, and by the end of next week maybe another hundred.”

Starbucks, after studying recommendations, provided a grant that allowed for the purchase of a large number of pillowcases, paints and other supplies for the project. Mia Spigelman, the Starbucks Philanthropy Committee secretary and a student herself, explained why.

“Tae Tae is a perfect example of a girl who is dedicated to improving the lives of those in our community,” Spigelman said. “She is willing to devote her own time in order to help others.

The Starbucks Youth Philanthropy Committee is an organization through Hands On Miami and sponsored by Starbucks Coffee Company and the Starbucks Shared Planet Youth Action Grants that grants funding toward youth developed community service projects like “Dream in Color.”

“I believe that everyone should follow Tae Tae’s example and realize that there are those in our very own communities that need our help and it is our responsibility to respond,” Spigelman said.

Besides homeless children, children of members of the military who are overseas on dangerous missions will benefit from the art students’ expression of caring. Students in the sixth grade class were clear on why they wanted to participate.

“Because it’s going to help more kids,” said Samantha Smith. “So other kids can feel creative, like I do. I enjoy art.”

Imani McIntosh, who hopes to pursue a future in art, agreed. “You can give back to the community.”

Maya Moore, another dedicated young artist, expressed her thoughts and approach.

“I wanted to color stuff, and I like doing colors, so I thought if I’m going to do this I might as well make something really cool,” Moore said. “When I was little I used to like a lot of colors, so I think that kids who are homeless should have a lot of colors with them as they grow up. It will cheer them up and inspire them to be artists like me and Tae Tae.”

Southwood’s principal, Deborah Leal, said she could not be more proud of the kids, seeing them so involved in the project.

“This impacts so many of the students,” Leal said. “They really are very committed and they participate whole-heartedly. Tae Tae started the momentum, and look at the rest of the students. It comes from them. Their parents aren’t telling them to do it. It’s part of their graciousness and their generosity, and it’s just so uplifting because they’re kids.”

Leal thinks that the fact that the students are 12, 13 or 14 years old makes a big difference, now and in their future lives.

“The generosity, the philanthropy, it starts at this age, and it makes me feel really good to see them,” Leal said. “It makes you feel like, okay, something’s right in this world.”

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