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COVID-19 Postponed School Kids' Visit To FIU Museum. So The Museum Sent Them Free Art Supplies

Provided by Florida International University Frost Art Museum
Sweetwater Elementary School teachers give bags full of free art supplies to graduating fifth graders. The packages were provided by the Frost Art Museum at the Miami-Dade public university.

A teacher banged a wooden spoon on the bottom of a saucepan. That, plus honking horns and the standard graduation songs — “Pomp and Circumstance” and Vitamin C’s 1999 hit "Graduation (Friends Forever)" — were the soundtrack of a coronavirus-style drive-through celebration at a Miami-Dade County public school last week.

The graduates weren’t high school seniors, though.

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“I spent a lot of time in that school,” said Maya Cardona, 10, who just finished fifth grade at Sweetwater Elementary. When she says, “a lot,” she means about half her life so far.

“I'm glad I had the opportunity to say goodbye before I went on to middle school,” she said.

“We were both crying the entire time,” Maya’s mom, Ivania Delgado said about the June 2 parade of cars through the school’s parking lot. After, “we parked across the street just to be able to see all the other cars and be able to wave. And if we saw anyone that we recognized, we started honking.”  

What made Maya’s fifth-grade graduation extra special: She was one of about 115 students who came through the line and received packages of free art supplies from Florida International University’s Frost Art Museum.

Maya plans to use the materials to draw her favorite subject: the cartoon cat Pusheen.

“Her and her dad will spend like two hours drawing and then coloring these cats,” Delgado said, “which is great, because now everything is on Zoom, everything's on the computer, everything’s on TV.

“We need to double down on other kinds of activities, because if not, we'll be on the computer the entire day,” she said.

Credit Provided by Florida International University Frost Art Museum
Maya Cardona just finished fifth grade at Sweetwater Elementary School in Miami-Dade County. She received a package of free art supplies from the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University.

Sweetwater and Carlos J. Finlay Elementary schools, both located near FIU’s main campus, have partnerships with the museum that allow students to visit and participate in hands-on arts education. The COVID-19 pandemic got in the way of that. So the museum prepared the bags of free art supplies to send home with students.

Both are Title I schools, meaning a majority of students meet federal poverty guidelines to qualify for free or discounted lunch. Miriam Machado, director of education at the museum, said families are reeling from the crippling economic impact of the pandemic and therefore might not be able to afford the supplies.

Credit Provided by Florida International University Frost Art Museum
Teachers greet graduating fifth graders in the parking lot of Sweetwater Elementary School on June 2.

The packages of construction paper, safety scissors, markers, crayons, glue and “a little bit of bling” were delivered directly to some students’ homes, she said.

Machado shared an email she received from the parent of a Finlay student who was grateful for the kit. The mother wrote: “En medio de una crisis que alguien se acuerde de tu pequeño vale más que mil lingotes de oro."

For our English-speaking readers, a loose translation: “In the middle of a crisis, for someone to remember your little one is worth more than a thousand gold bars.”

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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