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During the summer days, students can be found learning, reading and playing at the Cedar Grove Summer Enrichment Program at Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
The program, founded in part by the Brunswick Arts Council and Brunswick Family Assistance and partnered with the church, was designed to help feed students who receive free and reduced lunch during the school year but has provided the students more than a few meals a day.
The students participated in “What’s Good About Me,” a five-week program sponsored by the Brunswick Arts Council. Marjorie Edwards, president of the literary arts division, said she realized a need for self-empowerment while teaching a youth class at her church.
Not one of her students could answer the question, “What’s good about you?”
As children progress through school, daily conversations revolve around tests and grades, not individual qualities that make children unique.
“We stop talking to them about what’s good about them and get demanding, and that’s where we fall short,” Edwards said.
Edwards created “What’s Good About Me” and involved the Cedar Grove Summer Enrichment Program children in its pilot program. For the first three weeks, Edwards talked with children about how they can be good citizens in America, in their towns and communities and in their schools.
“We talked about how their being there was making that place a better place to live,” Edwards said. “We talked about skills, decision making, how happy careers are made and what happens when we fail to develop the gifts that we’ve been given.”
The fourth week, students made collages of a mustard seed growing into a tree and drew self-portraits to be combined into a quilt during the fifth and final week.
Each student was given an art box full of supplies to use and take home after the program’s end. Edwards said she hoped having the tools would spark the artistic flair in some of the older children in the program.
“What I have noticed here was that the kids older than third grade only used a pencil and paper,” she said. “One of the arts council’s goals is to get art back into the classroom at any and every age.”
Eleven-year-old Trista Hart said she enjoyed the program because the students were accepting and helped bring out the good qualities in each other.
“No matter how much I thought my drawing was ugly, everybody was like ‘Oh, that’s so good!’”
“What’s Good About Me” has been so successful, Edwards plans to streamline it so it can be taught anywhere in the county.
In addition to Edwards’ program, other local volunteers have spent time with the children. A retired chemistry teacher showed students several chemical changes and reactions.
“The students loved her,” Barbara Hewett, program volunteer, said. “They clapped after every experiment just like she was a musician finishing a number.”
The students also made aprons, wreathes and learned basic drawing skills from a local artist.
Sandra Robinson, who regularly works with the Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church’s youth and is the principal of Brunswick County Academy, said students in the program also work on reading, math and other academic skills.
“Communities and churches are going to have to do their parts to help the schools,” she said. “We need to do our part to help reach AYP (adequate yearly progress).”
The students don’t seem to mind learning while on summer vacation.
Michael Williams, a 10-year-old third grader, said he enjoys reading the most.
Robinson said the church plans to provide students with a similar program during the year and hopes to make next year’s summer program bigger and better.
Kathryn Jacewicz is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.