Digital design class spreads holiday spirit to special needs students


From Secret Santa gift exchanges to bell ringing for the Salvation Army, students are looking for ways to spread the holiday cheer. Digital Design and Media Production (DDMP) students are doing their part by working with special needs students.

The DDMP class created festive cards for the students, or “clients,” and presented the final product to them on Dec. 4. Clients chose from a variety of backgrounds and themes to create the basic design for their holiday cards. After taking photos of each client, DDMP students designed a card to match their specifications. DDMP teacher Samantha Spears said the course’s curriculum was adapted to include student clients to give the class a more realistic feel.

“Doing the project this way has made it more interesting for my students than a normal assignment,” Spears said. “It gave the class more of a purpose in that the clients were real people with real requests.”

DDMP focuses on creating digital print for business and marketing purposes, primarily through computer programs like Photoshop and InDesign.  The class sports a small enrollment – only 11 students at Plano and 88 students districtwide. Junior Michaela Sakell signed up for the course after she found out that the graphic design course was full.

“I talked to my counselor and she told me that this class was the next closest thing,” Sakell said. “I like it so far. It was awesome meeting and talking to the special needs students as we worked on the project. A classmate I was working with said she loves interacting with people with special needs, and it was definitely a fun experience.”

According to Spears, catering to the requests of about 30 special needs students proved to be difficult for many of the DDMP students. While each student was assigned 2 to 4 clients, those that finished early were assigned more clients to ensure that each person would receive a card. Spears said her students had to go the extra mile when creating the holiday cards.

“Students have to have a good level of understanding of the computer program, but there is also the aspect of having a client and meeting their standards,” Spears said. “Students have to make sure that everything is proofread and correct. It’s more than just knowing how to use the program.”

The project drew enthusiasm from junior Sergio Mateos, who said he enjoyed seeing his clients’ reactions when he gave them their holiday cards.

“When I gave a student his card, he started to jump up and down,” Mateos said. “It felt really special. For some of these kids, graduating high school may be their greatest achievement. We need to encourage them to do their best and these cards were our way of doing that.”