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Parkwood students take up VSA torch

Students assist special needs UCPS students in making jewelry during Monday’s (May 10, 2010) Very Special Arts Festival, held this year at Western Union Elementary School by the Parkwood High School National Art Honor Society. Students from eight UCPS schools volunteered to take part in the festival held for special needs students across the county.

National Art Honor students from Parkwood High School took up the torch previously carried by Piedmont High School and offered the Very Special Arts festival this year, but in a new venue.
   
The May 10, 2010, festival was held this year at Western Union Elementary School. It had been held for 14 years at Piedmont High School, then one year at Central Academy of Technology and Arts.
   
“The intent is to maintain the festival for the special needs kids in the county,” said event organizer Scott Meier, an art teacher at Parkwood High School. “We decided we were going to do a smaller one but it didn’t stay that way. It started out that we would have about 30 special needs students, but that number quickly turned into 250, with a total of about 500 guests. But I let it grow. Too many kids really enjoy it.”
   
The event had about 250 student volunteers and about 25 parent and community volunteers. Student volunteers are from National Art Honor Societies or school art clubs from Porter Ridge High, Parkwood High, Piedmont High, Monroe High, Central Academy of Technology and Arts (CATA), Weddington High, Marvin Ridge High and Sun Valley Middle schools.
   
“I think it’s so exciting to have so many middle and high schools involved,” said Tracy Price, the former director of the Very Special Arts which was held at Piedmont High School. “The thing that is special about Very Special Arts is it’s such a learning experience for high school students, as well as the special guests. They learn life lessons and many of them become more confident themselves and are willing to volunteer, and help ou
t with special needs individuals, so it’s a win-win day for everyone involved.”
   
Special needs students came to the festival from Wolfe School, Western Union Elementary, Marvin Ridge High, Sun Valley Middle, Monroe High, and Weddington High.
   
The theme of this year’s event was Jungle Book, and event T-shirts were designed by Parkwood High’s National Art Honor Society.
   
The festival featured a variety of art-related fun activities, a moonwalk, a small obstacle course, a dunk tank, and personnel from the Mineral Springs Volunteer Fire Department, the Union County Sheriff’s Office and paramedics from the Union County Emergency Medical Services.
   
The UCPS Very Special Arts Festival began in 1994, given by Piedmont High School’s National Arts Honor Society (NAHS). It raised more than $200,000 for special needs children over its 14 years. It ended, however, in 2008 when the festival outgrew its organizers and the school at which it was held. It had grown in attendance to about 1,700 students, parents and volunteers, with a price tag that reached almost $30,000 each year.
   
“When it was at Piedmont, there were a lot of people in the Piedmont community who were a big part of the event. And now it’s nice to have it in another part of the county because other members of the community in this area get to be a part of it,” said Tracy Price, the former director of the Very Special Arts which was held at Piedmont High School.
   
Meier said he is looking into the possibility of his school and his National Art Honor Society students continuing the festival next year.
 

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: May 14, 2010 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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