PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Some local high school students are learning more in their jewelry class than just how to make necklaces, rings and bracelets. They’re learning life lessons and having an impact on people outside the classroom.
It started with Allderdice High School jewelry teacher Julie Farber. She used to donate the jewelry her students made to local charities like the women’s shelter, but the students never really understood how happy it made the recipients.
When the mother of one of her students died from cancer five years ago, Farber decided to directly connect the students with individuals living with cancer, and it’s been a life-changing experience for all. She calls the program “Jewelry Love.”
“I wanted to teach my kids what it feels like to do things for other people,” Farber says. “No matter what path you choose in life, whether it academic or the arts, you can always make a difference in the world, big or small.”
In the spring semester, it starts when Farber connects each pair of students with a woman with cancer or other disease. There are 39 recipients this year.
The students call the patient and ask questions about jewelry, their health and about themselves.
Student Leah Simpson says, “We try to incorporate what they love and colors they like and things they enjoy, so it’s truly a specialized piece of jewelry they can wear.”
The students then design and make the jewelry. For example, they made a bracelet cuff with a cutout of mountains and a brown and turquoise stone for a woman who said she likes Earthy colors and the outdoors. They put the words “strength, beauty, courage” inside three bracelets for a woman who uses that as her mantra. They created jewelry with a rose motif for a recipient who loves the movie “Beauty and the Beast.”
One student, Kaileen Daniher, made jewelry for her mom before she died from a rare disease in June.
“My mom, it always made her feel better,” she remembers. “She liked to wear them. She said it made her feel pretty, and it’s nice to know someone else will feel that way too,” she says of making jewelry for other recipients this year.
The students give their jewelry to the recipient in person at a special celebration. Lindy Duty has been a recipient for the past four years.
“When you’re sick with something like cancer and the treatment is almost as bad, sometimes worse, than the disease, it’s really lonely,” Duty says. “It was really encouraging to have these young people, these teens who have a reputation of not caring, do this spectacular thing,” she says of getting the specially-made jewelry. “It took away the loneliness feeling and made me feel like people cared about me.”
The students are learning the lesson Farber hoped they would.
Student Sara Goldstein says, “I love the feeling of giving to someone who cared and loved what I gave them so much.”
Emily Pressman says, “I was able to help someone else. It made me feel really important and good about myself to be able to help someone in that big of an impact in their lives.”
To contact Mrs. Farber to learn more, go to her Facebook page at this link.