A CONNECTION BETWEEN a Spokane Valley teacher and a Dominican Republic artist offers a story as compelling as the painter’s colorful designs. When Horizon Middle School teacher Sally Hughes traveled to the Dominican Republic this past summer to volunteer, she met Ricky Rodriguez, a 20-year-old man mostly paralyzed from the shoulders down after a scooter-vehicle collision in 2002.
She learned that although he is bedridden and in poverty, he creates art by using a brush or pencil between his teeth. Hughes asked Rodriguez if he would draw some note cards for her to purchase. His resulting effort took her by surprise.
“When I went to get the note cards, they were so amazing,” Hughes said this week. “I knew there was a market for them. It really didn’t make a difference to me what I got back, but I looked at them and said, ‘Oh my gosh.’
“They are exquisite in color and detail.”
Hughes returned to Spokane and by mid-September shared Rodriguez’s story and his art with her colleagues at Horizon. That’s when her initial idea to help Rodriguez grew far beyond one person. Horizon students and staff along with others in the community have embraced the artist, resulting in the sale of more than 3,000 of his note cards to raise money for his care.
A local business offered to print the note cards at cost and someone volunteered time to do the printing. Students at Horizon and University High School have bought the cards, helped fold them and offered them at craft fairs.
“The purpose is to sell the note cards and all the profit goes back to Ricky for his medical and health care,” Hughes said.
Additionally, Horizon teacher Sharon Phinney and others are working on a quilt with 42 of Rodriguez’s designs for a raffle they hope to start the end of January and run through April. All proceeds from $1 ticket sales will benefit Rodriguez. Students also raised money to pay for the materials to make the quilt.
As a start, the note card sales so far have covered the costs of a water bed, vitamins, better food and ointment as well as the hiring of a nurse for Rodriguez, Hughes said.
“My No. 1 goal is to find a connection with a physician or a medical group and pay expenses for that doctor to go to El Factor and medically evaluate Ricky,” Hughes said.
She also described the poverty that Rodriguez lives in with his aging grandparents who care for him. She said that although he is mostly paralyzed, he has some movement in his shoulders, can bend his elbows and move two fingers. “Again, he has never been medically evaluated,” she added.
Hughes said that when Rodriguez learned how well the note cards are selling and first received copies of them, he was “filled with hope and pride.”
Meanwhile, Hughes and other teachers at Horizon give credit to the increasing community support. Horizon teacher Karen Kielbon‘s daughter, Kristina Kielbon, has involved U-Hi’s Spanish Club. And U-Hi student Mary Trechtor, for her senior project, helped sell cards at the school’s craft fair, put together a board display with all the card samples and has served as a liaison between Hughes and U-Hi for the project.
Tomlinson Black agents in the Valley bought several hundred cards, Hughes said. Mt. Spokane High School Honor Society students invited Hughes to speak and then volunteered to offer the cards at a Mead High School craft fair.
“The strong community response is beyond what we imagined,” said Hughes. “All I did was bring back the story. Everything else has just evolved. That’s beyond human effort.”
For more information about the note cards and quilt raffle, contact Hughes or Phinney through Horizon at 228-4940.
CV teachers honored
The Central Valley School Board recently recognized teachers who earned National Board Certification, a rigorous certification process aimed at strengthening standards nationally for the teaching profession. The voluntary process takes about a year to complete.
Three teachers who completed the board certification this year include: Bernie Hite, at Central Valley High School; Camille Krestian, at CVHS; and Cindy Bergdahl, at McDonald Elementary School
They join four teachers who received National Board Certification last year. They are Victoria Jensen, at University High School; Jody Froehle, Sunrise Elementary; Stephanie Morkert, Progress Elementary; and Elizabeth Rose, U-Hi.
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