The vibe was one of elation, excitement and pride on Tuesday, as inspiring songs from the likes of Queen and Fun blared on a portable speaker. Fifth graders from Sweetwater Elementary School waited in line with their families for a drive-up graduation ceremony, where they would be handed their diploma, along with a special Frost Art care package inside of an FIU Office of Admissions-branded backpack.
Staff and faculty cheered the students on by banging pots and pans, holding colorful pom-poms and using a megaphone to announce student names.
Assistant principal, Morris Gil served as an MC for the festivities by announcing student names and shouting through a megaphone “let’s make some noise!”
An animated Principal Janet Olivera used red, white and blue pom-poms and donned a star spangled headband to match her blue medical mask. She jumped, danced and cheered the students on throughout the hour-long celebration.
“These are like my own kids, I’ve been with them since kindergarten,” Olivera shared.
Students handed in textbooks and equipment, exchanged teacher gifts and received their diploma and special gift. The current state of affairs in the world did not dim the bright light from the teachers, parents, students and supporters present.
Jorge Padron, a graduating fifth grader's car pulled up as he smiled ear-to-ear. He says he has mixed emotions about graduating: he's excited but will also miss school. When asked where he wants to go to university, he promptly responded:
“FIU, go Panthers!”
This particular graduating class holds special meaning for the museum, who has partnered with the Miami-Dade, Title 1 school for several years. Their inaugural partner project involved the creation of a Hans Hofmann-inspired tiled mural on the facade of the school, which was completed five years ago by many of the very students who received diplomas on Tuesday.
"These art care packages mean a lot right now...and having a moment for children to use their imagination, frees them up from the daily stresses that we have all been experiencing,” said Miriam Machado, chief of education at the museum.
Creating transformative art experiences is part of Frost Art Museum FIU’s mission. This may seem like an impossible task whilst the museum’s doors remain closed due to the Covid-19 crisis—but along with virtual exhibitions and engaging digital content, a recent grassroots initiative by museum employees (called #FrostArtCares) delivers art experiences to recipients in need.
“It is very much the FIU spirit to support our patrons and community partners. We know that making art produces a sense of calm and tranquility, which is what everyone needs during these trying times,” said Jordana Pomeroy, the museum’s director.
Part of a mural created by Sweetwater students, in partnership with Frost Art FIU.