5th grader makes masks for her community: Next goal: Start a T-shirt design business

Published 9:58 pm Friday, June 5, 2020

LAPLACE — When fifth grader Amarii Grinstead saw people in her St. John the Baptist Parish community impacted by the coronavirus, she wanted to do anything in her power to help.

With fabric, sewing materials and a heat press at her disposal, Amarii set out to create more than 50 facemasks to keep frontline workers safe.

“I wanted to make something for people who were in the hospitals and working. I wanted to protect them from the coronavirus,” Amarii said. “It felt good because you know that you are helping people not get infected.”

Helping front line employees was especially important to Amarii since she comes from a family of well-respected nurses and healthcare workers.

The project started about two weeks after schools closed in March. Mastering the sewing techniques had a learning curve. With help from her mother, Octavia Bates, Amarii found an innovative new technique to speed up production.

Screen-printed designs are applied using heat.

The new masks still used fabric, though it was cut out a different way. After sizing the masks to ensure they provided proper coverage, Amarii printed out patterns and applied designs using a heat press. The completed maskshad patterns ranging from sunflowers to sports team logos and Class of 2020 emblems.

“We made a different type of mask. It’s more breathable. You can put cool stuff on it, and it’s a lot easier than sewing,” Amarii said. “My mom started advertising them on Facebook and asked who wanted them. A bunch of people got them, like nurses, doctors and other people who are not in the medical field.”

In addition to giving back to her community, Amarii spent a lot of quality time with her family during the COVID-19 Stay at Home order. She spent time outside and even helped her family construct a deck around the pool.

Now that the school year is over and summer is here, Amarii is setting her sights on a new goal. The facemask production went so smoothly that she’s now starting her own business. Only this time, instead of making masks for frontline workers, Amarii seeks to earn $1,000 by designing T-shirts, socks, pillows and other custom items.

Amarii Grinstead receives her Student of the Year Award from former Emily C. Watkins principal Antoinette Robinet.

So far, she and her mother have designed shirts for graduation and teacher and nurses appreciation. They have also designed clothing to make a statement about social injustices in America.

Amarii recently represented Emily C. Watkins Elementary as the fifth grade Student of the Year, and she was serious about her responsibility to be a strong role model for younger students. She’s an honor roll scholar and a member of her school’s 4-H program. Outside of school, she marches in Mardi Gas parades and performs at the Andouille Festival with the Dynamic Showstoppers Dance Team.

Above all, she is known for being respectful, outgoing and kindhearted.

Octavia Bates said she is proud of her daughter’s hard work and dedication. She is proud to watch Amarii grow into a young entrepreneur, as she has always been wise beyond her years.

“I call her my little nurturer,” Bates said. “She’s the little mom of the house. She keeps things together for us. She’s very dedicated, honest, very polite and well mannered. She’s a good kid. She loves to help people. That’s her passion.”

Amarii’s design business can be reached @jozti.designs on Facebook or Instagram.