The Enduring Legacy of Maria
Maria Consuelo was a former Chelsea School student gifted with exceptional artistic talents who tragically died in a car accident in 2000. Found abandoned in Bogota, Columbia and adopted at the age of two years old and raised in Washington, DC, she was diagnosed with a learning disability in the first grade.
Her mother, Valerie Kreutzer, sensed her intelligence at an early age as she excelled as an athlete, puzzle-solver, and artist despite her struggles with reading. “I knew that Maria was very smart in the way she often questioned and understood complicated concepts,” said Valerie. “For example, she would look at an orange and wonder why he couldn’t see the vitamin C inside of it. But reading was another matter. We practiced spelling until we were exhausted and reading was such a difficult chore leading to tantrums and torrents of tears at the kitchen table.”
After years of struggling in public schools, Maria enrolled at Chelsea School in the 6th grade. She began to thrive, as a student, reader, and especially as an artist under the instruction of her art teacher, Pam Aspiazu. “At Chelsea, Maria profited from her art classes,” remembered Valerie. “Her growing self-esteem spilled into her academic work and she began to write well, enjoyed math and Kate Fedalen’s science classes, and began to show her true promise as a student with gifted-level intelligence.”
Besides excelling in art and gaining confidence in academics, Maria benefited greatly from her counselling sessions with school social worker Pam McRae, who managed to break through a wall of denial and grief. Under Pam’s gentle guidance, Maria could unload the frustration over her learning difficulties and the pain of losing her birth family. According to Valerie, on Wednesdays, after her sessions with Pam, the family enjoyed their most peaceful evenings.
After Maria’s death, Valerie invited members of her family and friends to contribute to the Maria Consuelo Fund at Chelsea School. It started with a modest amount that grew to $25,000, but then got a significant boost from family friend Marian McNaughton, who left half of her estate to the fund. The purpose of the fund was to honor Maria’s memory with awards for graduates who show promise in the arts, are actively engaged in life, demonstrate an inner fire that motivates them to achieve, and dare to take risks to pursue their dreams.
“I have been gratified to see over the past decades a number of award recipients who remind me of Maria’s struggles and heroic accomplishments,” said Valerie. “I feel deeply touched knowing that our financial assistance helps young artists–cartoonists, film makers, photographers, sculptors–on their way towards mastery, despite their learning difficulties. I know that my Maria would be thrilled with this legacy and I hope that Chelsea will continue to nurture the often hidden and precious talents of its students.”
Maria Consuelo, like so many Chelsea School students who came before, and have come after her, was able to demonstrate, despite years of academic failure and trauma, her true intelligence and creativity with the help of a nurturing team of caring individuals. We at Chelsea School are incredibly proud of Maria’s legacy, and are extremely grateful for the financial support that Valerie, her family and friends have given to our students. If you would like to join parents like Valerie in support of our mission, please consider donating at this link: https://www.chelseaschool.edu/support-chelsea/