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Juma Jones, our Inspiring Illustrator

Third grade students in New Hope-Solebury’s Upper Elementary School have a new source of inspiration when they come into the classroom each morning: a colorful work of art created by school custodian Juma Jones. Mr. Jones, who has been helping to ensure the school classrooms are impeccably cleaned and ready for student learning in a pandemic, first started creating the drawings when he overheard the students expressing anxiety about their upcoming PSSA testing.

“I wanted to show them that they are bigger than any test. I think it’s important for each of them to know this, so I place the drawing right at the door where they all can see it.” For Mr. Jones, artistic expression became a personal outlet and source of healing following a car accident he experienced in 2007. He wanted to bring that same source of inspiration to the kids, and stated “By leaving this for them, maybe I can change their day.”

A recent illustration showed stars in the night sky with the quote, “You are all the stars that the world sees. Continue being the great students and the best Little Lions that you know how to be.” The drawings and their accompanying motivational quotes have become a fun activity for the entire class and have provided a special bright spot in the day for their teachers too. Nicole Brown, third grade teacher, shared that “Seeing these messages has been a beautiful reminder for the kids that they can do anything they put their minds to and that people believe in our children.”

The students are so appreciative they even leave post-its for Mr. Jones next to the drawings in response. Their notes thank him for his illustrations and often include requests for the next day’s artwork. Mr. Jones tries to honor their requests and dedicates time in the evenings to learning how to draw them accurately.

Despite the many challenges children have faced this year, they certainly still understand the positive impact and reciprocal nature of acts of kindness. As one student shared in a recent post-it note, “Mr. Juma, your messages always make me smile. I hope you smile too.”