Students find friendship, make connections with orphans in Bangladesh


Brad LeDuc

Elaine Pardee shares stories about Bangladesh with Advanced Studio students to get them excited about the project

When students enrolled in Advanced Studio class, they probably imagined lots of individual work and portfolio development for the future. No one imagined that a tiny class of six people in Topeka, Kansas would be making a difference in the faraway land of Bangladesh.   

Mr. Brad LeDuc’s Advanced Studio class has been partnered with less fortunate teens around the globe living in an orphanage called Home of Hope, located in Bangladesh. Over the past few weeks, students have used their passion for art as a platform to get to know the orphans and learn the differences between cultures.

Elaine Pardee, a former Topekan educator, travels back and forth between the United States and Bangladesh. Mr. LeDuc has been working with Elaine on this program over the past several years and decided he wanted to bring the project with him to Seaman this year.

The students set up a shared google doc that has allowed them to converse and form friendships. Over time, the students have learned much about each other’s countries as well as their pen pals.

“It’s incredible to be able to have this experience, and it’s so unique to learn about someone my age, that lives halfway across the world,” said advanced studio student Kaylee Berroth.

Additionally, Elaine was able to come and personally present to the students and share her experiences with her teens in Bangladesh.

Mr. LeDuc shared, “She was able to talk to them about each of their students on a personal level and the differences between the two countries. I feel it really helped us appreciate the little things we are blessed with here and often take for granted.”

After getting to know their pen pals, students began designing custom t-shirts based on their partner’s interest and hobbies. They later printed the t-shirts, one for themselves and one for their partners, with Mr. LeDuc’s screen printer and sent them back to Bangladesh with Elaine. Accompanying the t-shirts were hand-written notes that reached out to the students and connected them on an emotional level.

“In my letter, I wanted to include something about how his life and the way he lives inspires me, and how I believe that he can do anything he sets his mind to,” Berroth explained.

Mr. LeDuc hopes this will become an annual project and is happy with how things turned out.

“I sure have been impressed with the layers of thoughtfulness and love they have invested already in their designs… It makes me excited to think of students on opposite sides of the planet wearing the same t-shirts that connects them through the arts.”