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Bilingual Kansas City Kids Brighten Up Their School's Plain Gray Walls With Images Of Latino Culture

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Miranda Hernandez's favorite part of a new mural at Carver Dual Language School is two friends sharing a picnic with foods she likes to eat, like arroz con leche, a Mexican rice pudding eaten in cold weather.

School’s out for winter break, and Kansas City Public Schools fourth grader Miranda Hernandez can’t wait to have arroz con leche with her family on Christmas.

“It’s rice with milk,” she explained. “We have it every time when it’s cold, like in winter.”

Sharing food with friends and family is an important part of Miranda’s culture, which is why she likes the new mural at Carver Dual Language School so much. 

“We made this mural because before our walls were plain grey, and they were looking a little sad, so we decided to make a project,” said fourth grader Gustavo Sanchez. “Then all the kids drew all this stuff. It’s about our culture.”

Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Gustavo Sanchez's contribution to the mural at Carver Dual Language School is the airplane. He recently traveled to Mexico with his family to visit an aunt.

Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick, a Latina artist who lives in Lawrence, Kansas, worked on the mural, but all the ideas came from students in Miranda and Gustavo’s third grade class. 

“What they thought the Mexican flag looked like just out of memory was really funny and energizing,” Fiorella Fitzpatrick said. “They had of a chicken-like bird eating a snake, some had an eagle eating a cactus, some had other kinds of birds. I tried to recreate that in the mural by using their original drawing.” 

See more of the mural on artist Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick's website.

For Fiorella Fitzpatrick, who immigrated to the United States from Peru when she was 11, it was important that the kids could bring their culture from home to school.

“I remember my experiences through the arts as a young girl being so fundamental to holding on to what to my identity,” Fiorella Fitzpatrick said. “I could see (the kids) relaxing and feeling so comfortable painting their flags, painting their drawings in their colors on the wall, just feeling confident about putting their work on their school wall.” 

Third grade teacher Amanda Niedzwiecki wrote the grant to get the mural painted at Carver, which is a dual language school where kids learn in Spanish and English. 

“You can also see the color of the skin of the kids on the wall. Before this, there weren’t representations up on our wall of the students that we serve. Now every day my kids get to walk by this and know they were a huge part of making this happen,” Niedzwiecki said.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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