Greenport teacher Erika Cabral wins grant through Creative Spirit Fund

When Erika Cabral — Greenport’s music teacher for pre-K through 12th grade — received an email from fashion brand Free People this summer, she thought it was just spam.

But after reading the email, she realized she had won a $4,000 grant toward her school’s music program from the Creative Spirit Fund, a collaboration between Free People and Americans for the Arts.

“I was in school, and we somehow got hold of [the email],” Ms. Cabral said. “We were just so excited because there were a lot of applicants.”

Free People is an American apparel and lifestyle retail company. Americans for the Arts, founded in 1960, is the nation’s leading nonprofit for advancing the arts and arts education, according to its website. They teamed up in 2022 to establish the Creative Spirit Fund.

The fund supports public school educators. Each year, a panel of eight individuals — including Free People executives, actors and nonprofit collaborators — evaluates hundreds of nomination essays submitted by  students and peers of educators nationwide,  only 10 of whom are selected to receive $4,000 grants. This year, Ms. Cabral was one of the hardworking educators chosen from among more than 500 nominees. 

Karen Odell, whose three children have been taught by Ms. Cabral  — told The Suffolk Times she and her family, which includes Greenport’s 2022 valedictorian Anabelle Odell, nominated Ms. Cabral about a year ago, not knowing if they’d get  a response. In fact, until that email arrived, she assumed Ms. Cabral hadn’t been chosen.

In her nominating letter, Ms. Odell referred to Ms. Cabral as a “treasure of the small maritime community of Greenport, N.Y.”

“Over the last 18  years,” she wrote, “as the music teacher for the entire school — encompassing grades pre-K through 12 — she makes all of the local children shine. She is multi-talented, but her special talent is bringing the community together.”

As part of the Creative Spirit Series, Free People and Americans for the Arts also film a video of  each grant recipient. Ms. Cabral’s video was shot this past summer at Greenport School and can be found on YouTube as “Free People x Americans for the Arts Present: The Creative Spirit Series with Erika Cabral.“ 

Ms. Cabral confirmed that the school has received the grant money, adding that it could be used in a variety of ways to support Greenport School’s arts programs, such as getting new musical  instruments, updating the auditorium or creating a practice area for her music students. 

Instruments can be expensive, Ms. Cabral added, and she wants to spend the money as efficiently as possible. “I just have to be careful of where I spend it, I don’t want it to all go to one thing,” she said, noting that the grant funds must be spent by the end of 2023. So far, she said, a portion of the grant was used to purchase a new music rug for her classroom, which is useful for teaching her younger students. 

Ms. Cabral said that Greenport’s talented students deserve all the support they can get.

“I think that we need to support them with as many resources and things that we can, to unleash their full potential, just take them outside of their box and take let them take risks,” she said.