A drawing of a butterfly was created through the Pens and Paints Foundation started by four Pleasanton teens. (Photo - Pens and Paints Foundation)

Four Pleasanton teens recently developed a foundation to give elementary school students a voice to express themselves.

Annika Gangopadhyay, Sandra Srinivasan, Sammy Chittoor and Arya Krishna together created the Pens and Paints Foundation (PPF). As artists and writers, they believe they have a voice through their creative work and want to pass the ability to use that voice on to the next generation.

“We are just looking to give young kids a way to express themselves,” said 15-year-old Arya. “We are passionate about art and writing, and that’s why we looked at doing this.”

The four friends attend Foothill High School and formed the group in December of last year. After becoming a nonprofit and putting together a website, the girls began to look for venues to book classes and workshops. When shelter-in-place restrictions rolled out, they remained committed to their students.

“Once quarantine hit, we were like, OK, we have a chance to make this all digital,” Arya said. “That’s when we started doing our online workshops, online art competitions, and that’s when things started picking up.”

The girls came up with the idea to use a digital platform to teach their classes. They offer both art and writing classes, and help kids talk about what is important to them through their chosen medium. When deciding what material to use in their classes, they chose to create their own lesson plans.

“We are designing the curriculum ourselves,” said 14-year-old Sandra. “We are teaching them some skills for writing — we give them a prompt and ask them to write about it either in poetry or as a short story. In art, we have a project — paint or origami or something — and we help the kids go through it to express their creativity and art styles.”

Currently, all the classes and workshops offered by the PPF are free. The girls hope to hold in-person classes in the future and fundraise to cover the costs of hiring professionals to help teach.

Another way PPF is working to engage students is through art competitions and displays on their website. Currently, they are accepting submissions for the Summer Journal, an opportunity for children to submit visual art and writing pieces that will be published online for a limited time as part of a showcase.

“We decided to start this organization to help local youth represent their artistic talent in the community,” Sandra said. “The Journal is for kids 13 and under to submit visual arts and writing pieces they’ve been working on in the summer. It’s an outreach to the local community by the local artists and writers.”

Sandra noted there have been about a dozen submissions thus far. Submissions will be accepted through mid-August.

“The Summer Journal really reflects on our goals, which is to give students a way to express themselves,” Arya explained. “We really just wanted to do some more activities to engage young kids.”

PPF’s classes have been a popular choice for Pleasanton kids. Hasini Rubanagudi is 7 years old, and said she enjoys the classes and learning new ways to create visual art.

“I like painting, and I’m learning that you can use different colors to make one color,” Hasini said. “I like learning the dot painting, and I like the fun paintings we’ve done in class.”

For more information on PPF or the Summer Journal, or to donate, visit /pensandpaints.wixsite.com/pensandpaints or email pensandpaintsfoundation@gmail.com.