Project promotes global citizenship

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An illustration in the works of a child from the Dominican Republic that will soon be sent to her to keep as a memento from the students in the Memory Project at Cal State Fullerton.

There are many different ways people can make an impact on the lives of the less fortunate, sometimes its about more than a monetary donation.

Students enrolled in the Cal State Fullerton, multiple subject credential program are continuing to partake in a meaningful portrait series, better known as the Memory Project. The Memory Project was introduced to CSUF in the fall semester of 2013, making this the third semester of contribution.

Their efforts serve as a unique opportunity for students to create a tangible keepsake for children and teenagers around the world. Also for children who have been neglected, orphaned or disadvantaged in hopes of providing a special memory of their childhood, according to the Memory Project’s website.

Students enrolled in EDEL 437—curriculum and instruction in elementary school teaching—social studies, are currently working on portraits for children in the Dominican Republic and Paraguay.

The portraits are initially sent from the given orphanage, then distributed by professors to their students to complete and send back to the orphanage into the hands of the kids. Although students do receive some art instruction, it is primarily based off of grid drawing to recreate a likeness of the child. This semester, lecturers Kristine Quinn and Andrea Guillaume decided to use the theme of pop art to instill bright patterns and colors into the portraits.

Michelle Stewart, student and participant of the Memory Project, is currently working on her portrait of Yaniris from the Dominican Republic.

“They don’t have photos, they don’t have images of themselves, so it’s a special way that we can treat these kids to having something to look at themselves and just appreciate themselves,” Stewart said.

Kristine Quinn, an associate professor of elementary and bilingual education believes that this is a project built around service learning and the idea of connecting with other people in the world, while serving others without expectations in return.

“I think that it reinforces the idea of global citizenship and this idea that it is everybody’s responsibility to take care of the world’s children,” Quinn said. “I think that it is an exercise in looking deeply and trying to see someone.”

Quinn is leading the project with Ginger Geftakys and Andrea Guillaume, who initially stumbled upon the idea and proposed it to the multiple subject credential program.

Guillaume teaches many courses in the multiple subject credential program, with mathematics and science methods being her focus in the Memory Project.

“There is a significant amount of science that goes into this project, from the way the structure is put together, to the anatomy of the human face and how to reproduce that in a joyful kind of way, Guillaume said.

The Memory Project was developed in 2004 by Ben Schumaker.

Post graduation, Schumaker found that he did not know what he wanted to do with himself, but did know he wanted to spend some time volunteering with kids.

Ben then decided to volunteer at an orphanage in Guatemala, where he had a life changing encounter with a man who expressed the fact that he did not have any photos or keepsakes from his childhood.

The man told Ben that after he develops his photos, he should send copies of the photos back to the children at the orphanage, Schumaker said in an email.

From that single conversation, a lasting project sprouted.

“That really struck me very deeply, because it was an entire different need. I had been overwhelmed by the kids’ needs for better nutrition, healthcare, and so on, but this need to have a personal keepsake was one that I could actually do something about,” Schumaker said.

When Schumaker returned to Wisconsin he immediately started contacting high school art teachers, and the project began. He never would have imagined that the Memory Project would have become his full-time job, Schumaker said in an email.

It was not until 2006 that it all started becoming very real, when Katie Couric broadcasted a story about Schumaker and the project on the CBS Evening News.

With all the contributions entered from all over the world, this year’s CSUF credential students are completing 123 portraits. “This will make CSUF the largest donor to the project as far as largest number of portraits of any other institution combined,” Quinn said.

“That really inspires me, because it makes me feel that the happiness we experience in life may have much more to do with our core human spirit than external factors like wealth and privilege,” Schumaker said.

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