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Elkins Art Students Create Portraits as Keepsakes for Underprivileged Children in South America

(FORT BEND ISD) – Elkins High School art students created heartfelt portraits as special keepsakes for underprivileged children in Colombia.  

The FBISD students partnered with Memory Project, a non-profit that connects youth around the world through art to build cultural understanding and spread international kindness.Memory Project provided Elkins’ students with a picture of each child, their name and a list of their favorite things and hobbies. The high schoolers then used those elements to draw personalized portraits for 30 children ranging from 3-5 years old.

The Memory Project sent the handmade portraits to children in Colombia who are facing various challenges. The children attend school feeding programs because their families do not have sufficient access to food and have difficulties covering basic needs.  

“I think all of us were able to connect indirectly by sympathizing with their situation and imagining what they were going through and that allowed us to incorporate their personality while we were drawing,” Elkins High School Junior Yasmeen Gifti said. 

Freshmen Emma Liang drew her assigned child hugging a Tyrannosaurus Rex because he likes playing with dinosaurs. 

Junior Joy Hyewon Park’s child enjoys going to the park, so she incorporated outdoor elements and the child’s favorite color of flowers into the portrait she created; and junior Josie Lou was paired with a three-year-old, the youngest in the group, so she incorporated more of a toddler aspect into her piece.  

To finalize the project, each student included a photo of themselves, traced their handprint on the back of the portrait and wrote a special note to their assigned child hoping they will place their own hand on the student’s handprint to feel connected across the miles. 

Freshmen Braxton Newhouse’s message to her assigned child read, “Hi Deiner!! You can do anything you put your mind to!!! Always stay respectful and true to yourself! Be the light!!”  

Senior Grace Sowon Park is president of Elkins National Art Honor Society and spearheaded the project. She participated in a similar project in middle school but feels this experience was more rewarding because the pieces were more personal.  

“In middle school, everyone did a blank background and just the basics,” she said. “But this time I noticed everyone really bonding with their kid. Even though you don’t know them, you can get a glimpse into their personality.” 

Elkins art teacher Ryan Morales was a champion of the project which he referred to as a “selfless act that was not required of these students.”  

The portraits were given to Memory Project in November. In return, the students received a video of the children opening the paintings so they could see their reactions. For some of the children, this artwork will be one of their only personal belongings.


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