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Art with a Heart

Art with a Heart


Morristown, N.J. (February 25, 2020) – Patricia Dennis, '19, was just 13 years old when she received life-altering news: her brother had been shot and was fighting for his life at the hospital. As a resident of Newark, N.J., Dennis was familiar with gang violence but, until that very moment, had been shielded from its realities.

While her brother ultimately survived the attack, which rendered him paralyzed from the waist down, it left an indelible mark on Dennis. She became determined to deter others from following in her brother's footsteps and has since dedicated her life to educating inner-city children. She hopes that her influence will be enough to steer them away from the streets.

"I like to use art in my classroom not only to teach the students, but to heal them as well," says Dennis, who joined AmeriCorps upon graduating from SEU and works as a reading coach for second graders in Orange, N.J. "Art is a true form of therapy and it gives students a reason to stay in school."

One of Dennis' initiatives, known as "Art with a Heart," encourages students to decorate cotton bags with positive messages and imagery. The bags are then filled with beauty supplies and essential health kits for women and children in Haiti.

"Every language speaks creativity," says Dennis. "These women don't need to understand English to feel the warmth that comes from knowing someone is thinking about them."

"Art with a Heart" not only benefits the women and children in Haiti, but also provides Dennis' students an opportunity to give back. By giving them a greater purpose, she's instilling in her students a sense of pride and accomplishment that can never be diluted.

"I try to model all my actions after Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton," explains Dennis. While a student at SEU, Dennis became a Seton Associate, or a layperson who engages in ministry by living the charism of charity. "Mother Seton gave up everything to give back to those in need and I want to do the same for others."