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31 May 2007
Helping Local Kids CREATE!

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

From left, Cameron Horton, Courtney Horton, and Ayeala Jackson show their winning photos. Photo special to the News.

When nine-year-old Cameron Horton was given a disposable camera for the recent photo competition at Glenwood Meadows Boys and Girls Club, he had never taken a photograph in his life.

Cameron’s photo of fog on a field won first prize.

“He said he’d never taken pictures before and he didn’t think his were that good, but he has a natural eye,” said Renee Morrison of the JSU Field Schools.

An eye for photography must run in the family because older brother Courtney earned second prize with his photo of his neighbor, Seth Collins, holding a dog.

“I wanted to take all the pictures I could,” he said.

Another nine-year-old, Ayeala Jackson took home the third place prize with her photo of a tree near the house where she used to live.

“Last year we used to pick the petals off it and give them to our mothers and our teachers,” she said.

The photo contest began at the beginning of April and the children were given three days to take pictures of their environment – of things they found to be beautiful or inspirational.

Their printed pictures were then judged by visitors at the recent Mountain Longleaf Festival where the children from Glenwood Meadows ran 10 booths teaching other children about nature.

“Foggy Field” First Place: Cameron Horton

"My Friend” Second Place: Courtney Horton

"Love Tree” Third Place: Ayeala Jackson

“They taught them how to make animal track rubbings and how to make snakes out of paper plates and things like that, just different environmental arts experiences. So these kids were actually the teachers at the festival,” said Morrison.

The festival, photo contest and many other activities the children have participated in over the last five months are part of Children’s Regional Environmental Arts Traveling Experience. CREATE! is an arts and nature program run in conjunction with the Jacksonville State University Field Schools and funded by Legacy, Inc., a partner of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

“JSU Field Schools have worked with what we consider inner-city kids for about the past four years and we’ve won national awards for that, but we’ve always worked with Hobson City,” said Morrison. “So we called Shonika and she said yes, that she would love to have us come in and do arts programs with the kids and environmental programs – it’s kind of arts and nature.”

Shonika McKinney, who runs the club in Glenwood is thankful for the help she has received from Morrison and Rich Hulsey, an outdoor recreation major at JSU, who work with the children on CREATE! projects.

“I’ve noticed a lot of them, now their grades are actually getting better in school and it’s like ‘Oh, I learned about this at the club,’” said McKinney. “They love it. They learn everything about it.”

They have several projects planned for the summer and McKinney is working on recruiting more kids in the area to join in the fun. Any child between the ages of six and 18 can join the Boys and Girls Club. They don’t even have to live in Jacksonville. According to McKinney, her club is actually closer to Weaver than the clubs in Anniston, so she hopes to attract more children from that area as well as children of JSU’s faculty and staff.

The group has fun in an educational way. Each activity Hulsey, Morrison, McKinney or the staff lead the children through is designed to teach them a skill or give them knowledge they will use in school and later in life.

“I’m an outgoing person, so anything that’s out and about I want to do,” said McKinney of the trips she is planning for the children this summer, including swimming, fishing and going to the movies.

Membership in the club is $10 each year and the program costs $25 per week. For more information, call 435-7762 or drop by their location off Gardner Drive.

About Jennifer Bachus

Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

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