Let there be LIGHT! (Graffiti that is)


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The last two weeks have been especially exciting! Not only for the students but for dear old Ms. Candace herself. This form of expression was new for me but turned out extremely well. Light painting, light graffiti or light drawing, is a photographic technique in which exposures are made by moving a hand-held light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or to shine a point of light directly at the camera, or by moving the camera itself during exposure. The kids strengthened and learned to trust their own artistic ability by drawing in a dark room with absolutely no idea of how it would turn out in the end! Delivery was so much harder than it looked. They also learned how to work a camera. Hopefully they’ll find themselves doing some light graffiti in their free time outside of class. I most certainly will.


Finished product!

0EB1C811-C525-492E-86C6-19CBD742ABFFFinally got the doors finished in Mr. Harris’s classroom at Miller Junior High School. The room is starting to come to come together! Below is the work of my fellow Design Mentors! Love these guys to death. Katie Gabbard, Paul Marquecho, and Sarah Melby.

Field Trip!!

IMG_1067.JPGIt was a busy day for the EAST students. We toured The University of Arkansas in Little Rock, Heifer International, and East Initiative.

Students at the EAST Initiative Open House Event socializing, learning about other students projects from different EAST programs, tinkering with technology and getting inspired!IMG_1069.JPG

She Matters Girls Empowerment Trip


This past Saturday, EAST Facilitator Ms. Darla Gist took 24 young junior high and high school girls on a field trip to Marks Mississippi to hear Kenya Parks. As a Delta native, Ms. Parks prides herself in encouraging all girls to dream big no matter where they are from. She gave a heart wrenching testimony of her life and the traumatic struggles she encountered that molded her into the pillar of strength you see today. This trip helped me to see another side of Ms. Gist. I began to see where her passion truly lies with the students, especially the young girls. Her heart goes out to her students on a very fundamental level. How can one truly succeed when they’re weighed down with pain! The girls and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’m excited to see her grow as we grow this year in the EAST classroom.



The Rose That Grew From The Concrete

I believe all children have an instinct to follow the passions and purposes within. When we’re younger we tend to gravitate to the things that are grafted in our very being, and later that same instinct is overtaken with cares, doubts and overthinking. We forget what what makes us happy and gives our lives meaning. Lately, I’ve found myself along with the other Design Mentors, helping the students develop a relationship with certain aspects of creativity to cling to or that relates to them…one aspect being history.

History Lesson from Within

At Miller Jr. High School, we were able to see the incredible work of late photographer Rogerline Johnson of Johnson’s Studio. These photo’s were taken some time in the 1950s and really gave a feeling of the times. The viewing reminded me of how rich this area is in HISTORY. Another one of my favorite things that Helena has to offer is Warfield Concerts. This is an annual concert series that brings world renowned performing artists to the Delta. The series is usually held at the Lily Peter Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center at Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, free of charge to the public. I recently enjoyed the culture rich performance of Step Afrika. The show was nothing short of magical and downright amazing! For me, it dropped a puzzle piece of black history right into my spirit, this seemed to reconnect me to apart of my past that I had never accessed, but knew was there.  I left feeling enchanted and empowered. There’s something inexplicable about discovering your past and uncovering a little about where you came from that gives you a glimpse of where you can go and what you’re capabable of.

 Team Helena

As we are ending the 6th week of school, I’ve began to build community relationships that I never thought I would. I attended a Team Helena potluck, hosted by Lynn and Dana Chadwick, which gathered people from all over our town that all share a common vision for Helena-West Helena, an incredible place with tremendous potential. Since I was youth, I couldn’t help but notice the disassociation between the communities in downtown Helena and West Helena, despite the close proximity. Being connected with my roots here, my partnership with Thrive and the school district, I am compelled to believe that we may be well on our way to bridging this gap.

I’ve also developed a greater sense of support for ANYONE seeking to promote positivity in the community. Shout out to Ricky Murph, Apostle Steven Cannon, Pastor Izah Broadus, Tyrus Sloan Jr, St. Johns Episcopal Church, Young Life at Delta Fellowship, Thrive and many others in the community that have been reaching out to the youth and the city as a whole! Things like this gives me hope for the future of our young people.

“Change Isn’t Change Until You Change”

As we progress further into the year, I can’t help but notice the things that have changed for the better, some things that have worsened and the things that have remained the same since I was a student here in the district. Perhaps the most prominent of these things is realizing the effect our surroundings has on our learning propensity. I began to question myself about how I could make a difference if I weren’t involved in my community. This opportunity with Thrive forced me out of my comfort zone of solitude and thrust me before the very people and things I deliberately separated myself from and offered me a platform to share my thoughts and experiences and more important than that allows me to be a voice for the students. So, I recently asked myself, “Can you change another persons mindset?”. I asked others, surprisingly I got lots of feedback from my family, local friends, and even Facebook friends. I’ve concluded through those group discussions and plain old observation of the history of people, that mindsets are influenced immensely by surroundings. Here in Helena it seems the good things have to be sought out like hidden treasure. I have begun to realize how much was out of the control of the teachers and how small of a window there is to make an impact in these kids lives. So far these kids in these classrooms have started to defy the odds. The projects have began to blossom, and even though it is a struggle to keep the students on task and focused, it is truly heart warming to watch them in action and bubbling over with ideas! The projects are very heartfelt and include improving public safety and crime in our city, drug awareness in teens, natural disaster preparedness in the Delta, anti-bullying, fixing the floors at the skating rink to increase the number the recreational activities that seem to be lacking and (my favorite) the little free pantry to help with the poverty levels in the area.



Commence Design Residency

21317699_470865019967340_8571765038328249281_nPhase One

Orientation week kicked off on the 7th day of August. During this week, I watched as my other fellow Design Mentors settled in and became familiar with what would be their new home for the next 10 months. As they were given the run down on the ins and outs of the city (right down to the best mosquito spray), I realized how much I didn’t know about my own town. We met and spoke with some pretty amazing figures, from the police chief to a retired couple with tons of administrative experience in the school system who were more than willing to help us in any way they could. This particular week was a very emotional one for myself. As we discussed the problems and difficulties this community faces, among other things, I couldn’t help but notice how much these issues had impacted my own life.

So, as design mentors we will be partnering with the High School’s Art and EAST Initiative programs, working alongside the art instructor, Mr. Brent Harris and the EAST Facilitator, Ms. Darla Gist, offering our expertise and implementing the design process to help students complete their projects. I remember taking these very classes in high school! Art was one of my favorite outlets, but I remember thinking, if I ever wanted to be wealthy, art was not going to get me there. I also remember how much I took EAST and its opportunities for granted. Immediately I saw things that I missed in my high school years that would have made my college experience a lot easier with less incurred debt! I want to make sure each student is aware of the consequences of not planning well. I also want them to help them find their true passion and purpose in life doing something that they LOVE.

Phase Two

The first couple of weeks of school consisted of us getting to know the students and explaining to them what we were doing in their classrooms. After all introductions had been made, we got down to business and began talking about what problems they see within the community. These kids blew me away with their responses! I went into this experience with a bias about the younger generation and was happy to know that I was wrong about them. They see, they know, and they care! Safe to say I’m excited about the upcoming school year and future projects!

In the art classrooms, I’ve learned more of what it is to be an educator and how important the fundamentals are. I’m learning that in a classroom setting, not everyone has a genuine interest in art, but that doesn’t make them unteachable. I’ve come across such potential already, from the Art I to the Art II and AP Art classes. Its like staring in a mirror. It takes me back to being an insecure artist not knowing that there is no right or wrong way to express yourself. The only wrong way is to hold back.

The Dream Team

I cant think of more incredible people to share this experience with! Each of us (Sarah, Katie, Paul and I) has such unique skill sets and personalities to match. We seem to compliment, sharpen and balance each other out. I’m excited about what each of us has to bring to the table.