Each year the Florida State University College of Social Work hosts “Arts and Athletics,” an engaging two-week summer camp for underserved middle-school kids in the Tallahassee area. Leigha Inman, the Director of the camp collaborated with FSU’s Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE), the FSU Art Education Department, the FSU Athletics Department and the Tallahassee Housing Authority to organize the event and cultivate a program that exposes youth to a university setting while encouraging positive youth development.
Leigha Inman spoke passionately about the program, declaring the devotion that the College of Social Work has to the community. Inspired by Dean Mazza’s belief in the power of arts and athletics, their similarities and the positive influence they could have on the growth and development of middle school children; this camp grew out of a desire to offer underserved populations an opportunity to build group cohesion and increases self-esteem and self-confidence. Using the combined strengths of arts and athletics exercises and activities, the program focuses on cultivating leadership development, academic achievement, as well as social and life skills in the young people it serves. Inman stated “our mission is to foster well-being and pro-social development among youth through the use of arts, athletics, and community-based projects.”
This year, the Department of Art Education was thrilled when two of our students were able to help facilitate this event. Graduate students Hillary Kern and Erika Martin planned a variety of fabulous art activities for the 20 campers that participated in the program. Hillary and Erika had a wonderful time planning activities and contributing to the summer camp, and when asked about the experience they referred to the event as an opportunity for mutual learning.
Hillary Kern stated, “It was a great feeling to apply what I have learned throughout the past two years to this specific population. This was a wonderful end to the practicum experience of implementing art therapy within the community. It was interesting to watch these teenagers prosper in the information that they learned about themselves and to express it through the use of the art materials.”
For those readers that have never hosted a summer camp, planning activities for 20 kids can quickly become overwhelming. However, Erika and Hillary handled the challenge with contagious enthusiasm. When asked about how they accomplished such a difficult task within such a short time frame, Erika and Hillary shared their secrets for success, “We saw the kids 6 days out of the two weeks. Each session was one hour long with ten kids in each group. We explored the use of various art materials- chalk pastels, colored pencils, acrylic paint, water color, tissue paper and collage. After the campers learned how to use and manipulate the materials they worked applying the techniques to art directives that had them focus on positive self-concepts. We implemented an “I am” poem with a collage effect in order for the individual to truly identify features about their life that help define him or her as a person. We also had the individuals create art pieces that allowed them to focus on positive attributes and goals in their lives. The last week, the campers worked on a self-portrait using all of the techniques we discussed. All of the directives were chosen in order to promote a positive self-concept among these teenagers. The activities were designed to allow the individual to internally identify how he/she perceives themselves and how he/she sees these attributes affecting their future.”