SELMA – It takes a great deal of patience to learn how to cut fabric, align the edges together just right, add batting, learn how to operate a sewing machine and top stitch it all together to create a quilt. But that’s just the task students in Terry Elementary’s after-school program took on so they could donate quilts to the Selma Convalescent Hospital.
The sewing class started when Terry’s first-grade teacher Dolores Bouciegues was teaching library technician Felicia Gonzalez how to crochet. They thought sewing would be useful skill for their students to learn while also teaching the student’s a lesson about generosity and caring.
This is the second year of the sewing project and the group has changed its name to honor supporter Rubie Becker, a Fresno County Office of Education’s Teaching Fellows site coordinator.
“We just called it the after-school sewing club, but because Rubie was persistent and made sure we were funded, had everything we needed, was always checking on the students and was very passionate about it, we wanted to change the name to ‘Rubie’s Projects.’ We’re surprising her with that,” Bouciegues said.
They had a goal of creating 20 quilts, but wound up making at least 34 as the students proved to be such dedicated quilters.
“We were really afraid to have third graders since they’re really young. But they proved us wrong every day. They are work horses and they really pushed,” Gonzales said.
Students mastered skills and helped others trouble shooting the machinery when threads would break, while others would tag team to work together to finish a quilt.
“Some of them struggled a little bit, but they still just didn’t give up,” Gonzales said. “And they knew who to go to that would help them. They came in, grabbed their materials and equipment and just started setting up. One thing we told them was that anything could be fixed. They learned that even if they went off the line, they knew already they had to undo it and just do it again.”
On May 9, the program hosted a sewing ceremony and invited Selma Convalescent Hospital’s Activities Director Esperanza Chavez and Allie Contreras to accept the blankets.
The students also signed a copy of Valerie Flournoy’s “The Patchwork Quilt” that tells of how a grandmother uses colorful fabric from their family’s clothes to make a heirloom that represents each person and the important life events.
Contreras said the quilts will be a surprise as residents did not know yet that the quilts were made in their honor. Likely, they’ll the residents to read the book, present the quilts and take pictures to send back to the children.
“I can’t believe third graders are doing this. It’s so cool and I wish they had this in school still.”
Even parents of the students helped by making sure there was enough fabric and batting for all the quilts.
Each quilt contains a signed block with a message from the students, “A gift from Terry students to show we care.”
That’s the lesson Bouciegues said she really hopes the students learn now while they’re young so they can make giving a lifelong habit.
“You’re going to find little flaws [in the quilts], but that’s what makes it home made. I want them to understand it’s not about them; it’s about giving to someone else. I want them to learn that giving to others is more important than being selfish and thinking about themselves. If our kids don’t start learning that now, we’ve lost them by sixth or seventh grade. If they start learning that now, then they can be proud of giving.”