Wimauma kids create artsy cards for holiday seasonCard sales benefit RCMA Leadership Academy

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Most kids get their artistic inspiration from what they see in their surroundings and learn from their experiences.

The greens, reds and whites commonly seen on Christmas cards, for instance, change to warmer hues representing the sunshine and water surrounding the state of Florida when Emilio Castañeda, 11, creates his own version of a Christmas card. 

This year the 6th-grade student at Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) Leadership Academy in Wimauma helped organize the RCMA annual fund-raiser that benefits 68 child-care centers and three charter schools for Florida’s migrant low-income families. Along with his own artwork, more than 30 kids from Wimauma had their paintings and drawings translated into beautiful holiday cards that would light up anybody’s day in Florida, or out of the state.
“Children’s art usually winds up on a refrigerator,” says Barbara Mainster, RCMA’s Executive Director. “But our RCMA artists see their art published on Christmas cards. And they get sent around the country!” 

All kids from the art class design the Christmas cards, and the cards are then assembled for a panel of adults to judge, explains Bill Coats, RCMA’s Director of Communications. The judges are part of a committee representing farming corporations that support RCMA every year.
Castañeda created two of the 48 Christmas cards chosen. When he is not drawing palm trees in his art class, he can be found playing his guitar or practicing soccer at home. He dreams of developing video games someday.
Michael Ramirez, 11, is another student whose design was selected to be printed on a Christmas card and sold. With a blue background representing water, he drew a Florida map with a Santa Claus on it. The young boy was part of the art class last year. He hopes to join the Marine Corps when he grows up.
Cynthia Wortmann teaches the art class every Thursday afternoon. She started as a volunteer at the school, but has now been part of the teaching staff for 11 years. Her art class is small with only 10 kids -- a number she considers perfect, she says. 

Buying educational materials, supplies and services for kids

Wortmann was not trained as a teacher, but after she retired from her work as an advertising copywriter, she started to become more involved with art. Most of her class ideas come from videos she watches online and also from a lot of reading, she says. 

“(The students) all work at their own pace and do different works in the same class,” Wortmann says.
With projects about world peace and how to draw with the right side of the brain, Wortmann’s class is one of the electives that kids in Wimauma have said they most enjoy.
Christmas cards are sold in 10-unit packages, which allows the buyer to pick an individual design for all of them, or pick one specific design for each of them.
The brightest part of this project is that under a contract with the state of Florida, each buyer helps to qualify RCMA for matching state money, which means the organization receives $240 from the state for each $15 spent by customers on the Christmas cards. This money will be used to provide educational materials, supplies and services for kids at RCMA centers.
The idea of the cards started with DUDA, Inc. of Oviedo in 1999. DUDA is a family-owned agricultural company, which along with other Floridian corporations, is part of the leading exclusive buyers who support RCMA’s project.
For more information on how to order these original Christmas cards, visit the RCMA website or contact Sonia Tighe at 813-975-8377. 

To read more stories from the 83 Degrees Media On The Ground storytelling project, follow these links for English and for Spanish.

The 83 Degrees Media On The Ground storytelling project is supported by Allegany Franciscan Ministries.

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Read more articles by Andrea Rios.

Andrea Rios, a journalism major at the University of South Florida, is an intern and writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.