At Seattle Refined we are constantly inspired by people in the community who are making a difference in the lives of others. From the local teen who put his 3D skills to use to help a cardiologist keep his face mask on safely to the high school student in Bellevue who built a website to help restaurants during the Pandemic.
Marnie Gray works in the Lake Stevens School District. She recently started 'Color Me Important' to help teachers get multicultural school supplies for their classrooms - for free. Their mission is 'to engage students by recognizing and celebrating diversity in the classroom and to help every student feel important and valued.'
Seattle Refined: Marnie Gray - you’re the founder of Color Me Important. You’re providing teachers with an wide array of colorful supplies for the students, in all different skin tones colors. I think this is the coolest thing ever - can you tell me what inspired you?
Marnie Gray: I overheard a teacher at my school (I’m a paraeducator in Lake Stevens) and she was talking about how she’d seen these multicultural crayons hit the market. I knew how much teachers spend on supplies on their own, [and] I realized these were not the only supplies that teachers needed. There are other things that can improve the classroom for them - and it kind of blossomed from there.
A lot of times on school supply lists there’s the standard box of 24 crayons...
It’s lots of bright beautiful colors but it’s not anything that represents anybody’s skin tone. [Holds up crayons] these are your two choices in that box, and these are not the only two colors people come in. It’s just really missing that diversity.
So what’s in these bags?
Everybody gets one of our Color Me Important bags. We have the star of our show - the crayons! Each teacher gets ten boxes of crayons, skin tone bandages, this great book called 'All Are Welcome,' a big old package of multi-cultural skin toned construction paper, these great body cutouts in all different colors [and] a class set of Crayola multi-cultural markers.
What has been the reaction of the teachers?
The teachers have been so excited. We get tears, we get screams of joy. They really feel like it’s a special thing to be able to include all of their students. Makes everybody feel special and welcome. We decided to focus on the kindergarteners to begin with. It’s their first experience with school and we want to make sure that it’s positive for everybody.
Why do you think it’s so important for kids to get relatively accurate representations of skin tones for their projects for school?
Because when they can make a connection between themselves and the work that they’re doing they’re going to be more engaged in the entire process.
What is the monetary value of what’s in the bags?
Each bag has about one hundred dollars of supplies in it.
What kind of support have you received from the community so far?
The community has been really supportive. We’ve had 26 people donate to our Go Fund Me account and we’ve had countless other people order things where they can help from our Amazon wish lists.
How many of these bags have you been able to give to the teachers so far?
We’ve completed about 23 bags and we’re in the process of collecting supplies for quite a few more.
So what has your living room been looking like over the summer, working on this project?
It will go from being completely full of crayon boxes and books and papers and then it will all clear out as they get gifted and then we start again.
What makes this special to you?
This is special to me cause I have a very diverse group of kids, and I know that they’re going to be be able to see themselves reflected in their work.