Holiday stockings spread some holiday cheer

Collaborative project helps students use their skills

As a thank you for their efforts, students and staff at the Center for Career Services received a stack of hand-made thank you notes from students at P. S./M. S 279 Captain Manuel Rivera, Jr. School in the Bronx.

The notes of appreciation were the result of a special project that incorporated generous donations from the staff and students at the Center. The campus collaborated on making holiday stockings, filling them with treats and donating them to a kindergarten class at the school.

The project began as a work-based learning assignment in the Fashion Design and Merchandising class. The annual project allows students to begin to learn sewing skills, get used to using sewing machines and gain an understanding of what mass production looks like.

Each year, the Center donates the stockings to an organization focused on assisting children to spread some holiday cheer.

“Fashion class was learning how to use the sewing machine and how mass production is done,” teacher Carmen Galiano said. “They each made one stocking to learn all the steps (sample making), then students were divided into small groups to do specialized steps only (piece work).”

Students divided up the task and some were cutting the pattern, measuring ribbon and sewing the stocking parts. Others put the cuffs on and pressed the finished items.

“It really looked like Santa's workshop. I called my students ‘fashion elves.,’” Ms. Galiano said.

Soon the project spread across campus. The Architecture and Design students created coloring books and included colored pencils and candy canes with their donation. Students in the Culinary Arts program contributed some of the holiday cookies they make for their annual fundraiser. And the Office Skills class made holiday cards. Individual teachers and staff also donated Play-Doh, card games and plush elves.

Architecture and Design students used images to create an 8-page coloring book. Students sized, printed and bound the books using Adobe Illustrator. They also put together an assembly line, tying candy canes together in neat little packages.

“I would say the biggest thing they got out of it was teamwork and doing something for those in need,” teacher Christine Ireland said about the project.

“The pandemic really has limited our students’ ability to see outside of themselves, especially high school students who are learning and growing. I think it was an invaluable lesson for them to feel like they could do something good, even if it's small. They get to see a result from doing good and that's an important feeling to experience,” Ms. Ireland said.

Across the hall, Jason Poniatowski’s CISMAA/Office Skills class contributed too.

“Every year students use Microsoft Publisher to design and create their own holiday cards as part of the Office Skills and CISMAA coursework. Later in the school year, they design Valentine's Day cards, graduation party invitations and thank you cards,” Mr. Poniatowksi said. “Students create the cards for their own use as well as for friends and family members. Some graduates have gone on to create small businesses by designing and selling invitations and custom cards as well as wedding invitations.”

“When we heard about this project, one student in particular was extremely interested in helping and I let her take the lead,” he said.

That student was Samantha Perkaj, a junior at Irvington High School.

“It was really cool,” Samantha said. “I love kids.”

When thinking about a theme, Samantha said she decided to use cartoon characters. She first considered incorporating some old-school characters, like those from Looney Tunes, but decided to use contemporary cartoon characters that she felt the young students would be more familiar with these days. Therefore, Peppa Pig and Doc McStuffins were incorporated into her design, and she also used some classics – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

“Even adults have an inner child in them,” she said, knowing the cartoon theme would be a hit no matter who it was for.

Once she had a theme, creating the designs was easy to do. The challenge was finding appropriate wording to use on the cards. The next obstacle was getting the printer to cooperate.

“It was fun to do,” she said. “It was a nice breather from the work I usually do.”