King students design Starbucks sleeves

King students design cheerful sleeves to hand out at Starbucks
Posted on 12/06/2023
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Starbucks customers in Piscataway will be getting an extra shot of holiday cheer this week thanks to art students at Martin Luther King Intermediate School.


Students are putting their own unique designs on custom sleeves that will be given out on Starbucks cups at the shop at 1400 Centennial Ave. starting on Friday, Dec. 8, and running until all the sleeves are given out.


The project was put into action by art teacher Irina Nikitovic, a regular Starbucks customer who also tries to find ways to share her students’ work with more people.


“They do such tremendous work that just have it here in school doesn’t do it justice,” she said. “Having the children’s work anywhere in the community is so much better.”

teacher and student


She was inspired one day after getting a cappuccino and looking at the red cup and brown sleeve with the eye of an artist.


“I was looking at the cup and I thought, ‘What a beautiful red color,’ and then you have this neutral sleeve that really does nothing,” said Nikitovic, who is in her 16th year of teaching in Piscataway. “I love Starbucks, and I love their designs, but immediately I thought, ‘Wow, this could be bright, beautiful, cheerful.’”


So she reached out to Starbucks manager with the idea of decorating the sleeves. The manager thought it was a great idea and gave Nikitovic 500 sleeves for her students to decorate.

students drawing

When she told her students about the project, they were overjoyed.


“They were really, really happy. ‘We are going to famous! This is going to be great! I’m going to tell my family!’” Nikitovic said, quoting her students and laughing. “I am beyond grateful and excited. I have no words to really express how appreciative I am of them just taking this and running and being thankful for me for doing this. They said, ‘Mrs. Nikitovic, this is awesome! Thank you!’”


students hands drawing

The students’ message focus on kindness.


“What kind words can you put on your sleeve? How can you brighten somebody’s day? What could you do to put a smile on somebody’s face that you don’t even know?” Nikitovic said.


All the students in the school are taking part, including fourth- and fifth-graders, as well as those with cognitive impairments.


“Everybody was able to put their mark on the sleeve in some way,” Nikitovic said. “Whether it be a very simple pattern or very elaborate quotes or meaningful messages. So depending on their abilities, they were able to participate.”

teacher with students


Rebekah Sterlacci, supervisor of visual and performing arts for the district, gave credit to Starbucks for hosting such a unique art exhibit.


“A huge thank you to Starbucks for collaborating with us,” said Sterlacci, who can speak as an educator as well as a parent. “The students are really excited about this. I can speak first-hand: My fourth-grader is ecstatic!”