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Stitching a message of kindness across Tucson

Posted at 6:44 AM, Nov 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-25 08:44:32-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Students with special needs are learning hands-on job skills through a Tucson Unified School District program. It's Transition From School to Work (TSW) program offers Kind Stitches as a skills learning opportunity for the district's act students.

The students spend two years gaining job skills and independence that will help them after graduating.

"My favorite thing about Kind stitches is using the embroidery machine and helping the customers," said Esmerald Ortiz, an ACT student working with Kind Stitches.

Kind Stitches is where students learn apparel design and how to work a embroidery machine.

"And I think this is really impactful for them because they are learning valuable skills that they can take out with them as they become adults transitioning to the workplace," said Vanessa Sawyer, the lead teacher for Kind Stitches.

The students also bring the machine to farmers markets, school events, and street fairs around Tucson. There, they take orders and can embroider designs on the spot.

"I like to set up the Ben's Bells ceramic pieces for customers," said Monique Mariscal, an ACT student working with Kind Stitches, with the help of her iPad.

And for the past four years, the program has been in partnership with Ben's Bells Project.

"The program does generate an existing revenue source for us. Just last year alone during the school year, Kind Stitches raised and generate over $1,300 that's reinvested back into our community," said Jodi Vander Ploeg, the merchandise manager for Ben's Bells Project.

And the students' love for this program shines through as they work to spread Ben's Bells Project's message.

"Truth is, I really enjoy Ben's Bells and Kind Stitches because I want to make people happy. I want to spread Kindness to people; that's what Ben's mom told all of us to do," said Yassin Ben Abdallah, an ACT student working with Kind Stitches.

"It really means a lot to me because people like me that have a disability, the ACT will help them learn how to get a job and learn job skills," said Dyani Berrellez-Ozuna, an ACT student working with Kind Stitches.