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NYCATA/UFT Artist in Masks project

Kids’ pandemic reality on display

New York Teacher
Samantha Mercedes of PS 26

Samantha Mercedes of PS 26 in Brooklyn shows off her winning mask and awards.

“I Will Not Die,” 3rd-grader Samantha Mercedes’ winning pandemic mask design, told the story of her grandmother’s victorious fight against the coronavirus. “I only see students once a week,” explained Elizabeth Kinkel, Samantha’s art teacher at PS 26 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and one of 40 teachers whose students participated in the remote learning art project that was a joint effort of COPE NYC and NYCATA/UFT. “Suddenly I saw into their lives and began to learn how much the disease had personally affected my students and their families,” Kinkel said. “I was floored.” At IS 96 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Erin-Marie Elman’s 7th-grade student Gia HanTu won for her “Rainbow Mask.” The project challenged students’ creative ingenuity while helping the community during this crisis. Designs were accompanied by statements explaining their creations. “These kids blew my mind,” said Elman, who had to select five out of 100 submissions and “wanted to wear all five designs.”