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Credential Students Turn Portraits Into Memories

'Memory Project' Infuses Art With Social Studies and Science Learning

March 10, 2014

Credential student Rafael Monroy draws his portrait of "Donaldo" as part his teacher preparation program and for the Memory Project, in which his artwork will be given to the boy who lives in an orphanage in Mexico.

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When future elementary teacher Rafael Monroy opened the envelope and took out the photograph of a boy named "Donaldo" who lives in an orphanage in Cuernavaca, Mexico, his heart sank.

As he looked at the smiling face of the boy, about 11 years old, he wondered not only about what this child has been through in his young life, but also how he was going to draw his portrait.

"My biggest fear is not being able to do his picture justice," said Monroy, who lamented he is not an artist and hasn't done art since elementary school. "I want to do something he would be proud of."

Monroy and other multiple subject credential students are participating in the "Memory Project," which focuses on creating portraits of children who are neglected, orphaned or disadvantaged, living in orphanages or children's homes. The nonprofit Memory Project then presents the portraits to the children as a keepsake.

Education faculty members wanted to involve students in the project as a way to expose them to social and global issues — using art, said Andrea Guillaume, professor of elementary and bilingual education.

"For us, the project combines science — understanding physical properties of art media, human facial anatomy — social studies and service learning, and, of course, art. We send the portraits to the kids as portable pieces of their history," said Guillaume.

During a recent class session, Ginger Geftakys, program coordinator of the college's SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Center for Creativity and Critical Thinking, which is supporting the project, guided students in drawing accurate portraits based on the colorful work of pop artist Dean Russo.

Geftakys explained that portraiture is, for most, the hardest art to do. She gave instruction on how to draw facial features, apply design elements and use color to make the portrait stand out. Through the experience, students become confident in creating art, Geftakys added.

Kristine Quinn, lecturer in elementary and bilingual education, explained that through the service-learning component, it shows the students how they can be active citizens and serve others, and most importantly, make a positive impact on someone else's life. In turn, they will teach their own students how to use art for social justice.

"This is the first time we're connecting art to service learning," Quinn said. "Portraiture has a rich history as being an art form to document somebody of importance. We want these kids, who don't have baby pictures or pictures of their birthday parties, to know that they are important enough for someone to draw their portrait."

Student Melissa Torres, who drew "Miguel," said she gained awareness and compassion about social issues affecting children and how important it is to be active in social issues.

"My experience so far has been amazing. I would say this is the kindest act I have ever done for someone," said Torres. "Imagining the smile our work will bring to the children makes all my hard work worthwhile and an experience I will keep close to heart."

Through the guidance of his instructors, Monroy also hopes Donaldo will treasure his portrait: "I'm very proud of my portrait — and that it gives Donaldo hope that someone in the United States is thinking of him."

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Media Contacts:

Andrea  Guillaume, College of Education, 657-278-3237

Debra Cano Ramos

Tags:  Academics & Research