While working with the 21st Century Summer Enrichment Program, Julie Hodges, art teacher at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, applied for a grant through volunteer Florida and Franklin County’s Promise Coalition and received the Best Neighboring Grant.
The grant was awarded to encourage development and execution of original ideas and the importance of volunteerism in area high school students.
Hodges saw an opportunity to combine the summer art program with the centennial events that celebrated the 100th birthday of Port St. Joe.
The high school volunteers included Caroline Rish, Miles Otwell, Coy Burke and Elizabeth Sapp.
They represented grades 9-12.
“The program encourages the volunteers to gain confidence in themselves,” said Hodges. “They present their ideas and then have to follow through.”
While Hodges supervised the art project and provided ideas when necessary, the students were encouraged to lead the group of youngsters in the execution of the project.
Together, the students and volunteers traveled to the Washington Gym, the Constitution Monument, Old St. Joseph Cemetery and historic churches while snapping photos that would later be painted and hung as part of the centennial’s student art exhibit.
Once the pictures had been taken, Rish hosted a step-by-step watercolor class where students painted the historic Port Theatre on Reid Avenue. From there, the students painted various buildings throughout the community.
At the end of the two-week program, the centennial events were in full swing and the art was on display alongside the timeline at the Event Welcome Center.
Rish’s display painting of the Indian Pass Raw Bar was so popular that she worked with Coast2Coast Printing to create a limited number of prints which she later sold at the Salt Air Farmer’s Market.
Hodges praised the program for bringing the elementary and high school students together which created a surprising and unexpected bond between the age groups.
“The younger kids fell in love with the high school volunteers,” said Hodges. “The older kids formed a bond with people they wouldn’t normally spend time with.”
Hodges’ goal is to seek out grant opportunities and show students that they can have an art program on par with those offered at larger schools.
“There’s this grant money hanging out there,” said Hodges. “We’ll take any opportunity to help the students.”