A little girl sees the Georgia College student and immediately gravitates to her – claiming the young woman as hers, linking arms and looking up with a big smile. Another visitor looks down to see a little boy tugging at his shirt. The lad charmingly asks, “How YOU doin’?”
Small efforts and attention mean the world to these youngsters.
They were among a dozen elementary-aged children from the Harrisburg neighborhood in Milledgeville, who teamed up this month with student mentors from Assistant Professor Matt Forrest’s Community Outreach and Development art class.
Together, they created a 30-page coloring book that will be unveiled next week at the Collins P. Lee Harrisburg Community Center in Milledgeville. The "art opening" will include refreshments and activities like watercoloring, printmaking, drawing and coloring.
Children will receive their own copy of the coloring book that day. Inside are drawings of things important to them like flowers, butterflies, watermelon, popsicles, a garden gate, robots, snakes and even Spiderman.
“To see children get so excited for so little, in comparison to the things we take for granted, it’s exciting for us as well,” said senior Bradley Galimore, a fine arts studio major from New Orleans, Louisiana.
His sentiment is echoed by Cyndee Edwards, programming manager for Baldwin County Parks & Recreation. Edwards grew up in the Harrisburg neighborhood and calls this center her “special program.” Children – who might be hungry, behind in school or hurting emotionally – find support and success there.
“It’s a great idea,” Edwards said about the coloring book. “It’s exposing the kids to something else. Sometimes we may think it’s nothing, but it’s a lot to them.”
Georgia College has provided student tutors since the Harrisburg Community Center opened five years ago as a dilapidated building with no heat or air conditioning. Since then, Habitat for Humanity upgraded the building, and art students painted a mural on the outside.
“Georgia College has been an instrumental part of making our programs what they are,” Edwards said. “It’s a relationship versus a partnership. It’s a committed relationship, a lasting relationship. It’s not a one-stop thing.”
In June, the project – from beginning to end – will be depicted in a photo-board exhibit at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore at Georgia College. Copies of the coloring book will also be displayed.
Students used Adobe Illustrator to “live trace” drawings into coloring-book form. The book was published on textured paper and bound at a company in Pennsylvania with a $500 mini-grant from Georgia College’s Office of ENGAGE, which encourages community outreach projects.
Some students digitally designed logos for community center T-shirts. Others worked in groups to identify needs and apply for grants to further upgrade the building and purchase supplies.
Senior fine arts studio major Jessi Askew of Milledgeville said the Harrisburg Center water fountains are broken. She helped apply for a $1,200 grant through TriCounty EMC to buy the kids sturdy water bottles and install outside rain barrels to collect water for the center’s garden.
Emily Harvie, a senior fine arts studio major from Atlanta, helped apply for a grant from the Knight Foundation to buy mixed-media materials like Play Doh and Legos. With these items, she said children can learn to think structurally about shape and form.
“We’re trying to give them the basic things we don’t really think about in our lives that they don’t have access to,” Galimore said. “We’re going to try and see if we can help push them forward, so they can move ahead in life.”
His group is working on a third grant to buy 10 Dell laptops with Microsoft Word programming, three printers, three scanners and five digital cameras. This digital media lab will replace the center’s old, heavy and outdated personal computers.
“You’re gonna make me cry,” Edwards said, when she heard the news. “You ask anybody here about Georgia College and they’ll tell you, ‘They’re jewels.’”