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Lincoln County Arts Academy students shine in ‘Creating My Story’ finale

STANFORD — Lincoln County teacher Megan Ralston knows the local community has quite a few talented students in its midst. However, until the weeks of July 9-20, she never realized the extent of that talent.

On the evening of July 19, over 100 Lincoln County youth demonstrated to Ralston and the community that talent knows no age limit as students ranging in age from kindergarten through 12th grade showed off a variety of talents individually, as well as in pairs and groups in the finale to this summer’s Lincoln County Arts Academy (LCAA).

“Having worked with the middle school program and the high school program both, for me, I knew that we had a lot at that age level and that skill level. The elementary school really surprised us,” said Ralston, who served as co-director of the LCAA with Carlee Cornett.

“Neither Carlee nor I had any idea that these little guys could do some of the stuff that they could do. It came as a big surprise and made us really excited for things that are going to be happening in the future.”

The showcase, which was titled “Creating My Story,” demonstrated skills in the areas of dance, visual arts, acting, singing and culinary arts and was held at the Lincoln County Technology Center.

During the LCAA “Creating My Story,” the halls were bursting with examples of visual arts, as the students’ talents with a paintbrush lined the walls. Outside the auditorium, culinary arts skills were on display as visitors enjoyed hors d’oeuvres made from scratch by the students. The art of dance, singing and acting then followed on the stage of the Stuart Underwood Auditorium.

As Ralston got her first look at all the visual and culinary arts displays, her jaw dropped just like it had for many of the hundreds of visitors to the event.

“I was particularly taken back by the artwork and what they were able to produce in that amount of time. And all the work of the culinary arts students. It was awesome,” she said. “The performance aspect (on stage) didn’t surprise me because I had been watching it and we’d been practicing. But now the art and the culinary art was particularly exciting for me because I wasn’t as much a part of that.”

Ralston said having Cathy Hill and Allie Gibson overseeing the culinary and visual arts instruction made all the difference.

“We told them what we wanted them to do and Cathy Hill and Allie Gibson just ran with it,” Ralston said. “We were not even remotely concerned because we knew they could pull a lot of creativity out of the kids.”

“We feel very confident that everybody left there with a smile on their face. And that’s what’s important.”

In addition to all the different arts demonstrated on stage and in the hallways, students also exhibited their knowledge of social studies and the Spanish language through tableaus and song. These two areas fulfilled part of the requirements of the grant that was received to fund the two-week LCAA.

“When the arts grant became available, she (Jackie Risden-Smith) applied for it as a combination arts academy and also a stem academy grant,” said Ralston. “In this grant, it said that we would provide opportunities for some social studies enrichment and some Spanish or foreign language enrichment.”

With the grant confirmed, Ralston and Cornett immediately set in on planning the curriculum for the intensive two-week LCAA session, which was being taught by certified teachers and master teaching artists.

The pair quickly came up with a program incorporating the movies Alice in Wonderland, Tangled and Annie as well as the Broadway musicals Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen.

“Once the grant was settled, Carlee and I started talking about popular things that we thought the kids would have fun with,” Ralston said. “Looking at the applications, we saw that we had tons and tons of girls. Dr. (Delsie) LeMaster also worked with us on musical theater and she actually was the one that said, ‘I think they’d love to do “Hard Knock Life” and love to do a scene from Annie.”

“We’ve done so many shows over the years and we kind of pulled from them. “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” was from Alice in Wonderland Jr. which we did years and years ago. So we already had that and the little kids loved it. We chose Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen songs based on the fact that that’s what the high schoolers are into now because they are popular musicals We tried to base what we did on our clientele.”

Approximately 135 students applied online for a chance to attend the academy and 115 were accepted. The academy, which ran from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, was completely free – No talent required.

“It wasn’t like a GT (Gifted & Talented) thing. It wasn’t just for kids who’d done it before,” Ralston said. “We really wanted to reach kids of all interest levels and all demographics. All the kids that really had an interest in what we had to offer. We got that. We got a gamut of different types of students and kids that come from different backgrounds. I was proud of that.”

With the LCAA now behind her, Ralston looks back with great pride.

“I feel very proud of what it did. I feel like we succeeded in giving students this opportunity to be creative and explore interests they may have, especially at the elementary level,” she said. “They were crying out for us to give them visual arts because they’ve taken that out of the schools. It speaks volumes when, of the 135 students that applied, 90-something of them wanted visual arts.”

And Ralston hopes the LCAA gets the ball rolling on arts.

“The arts reach so many kids, so many different kids,” she said. “I know that sports are important. Good Lord, my husband is a coach. I totally support sports. I’m so proud of Lincoln County sports. I’m at all the games. However, I think that the arts really do reach all kids, whether you have two left feet or you can bounce the basketball. I’m just glad that there was something like the Arts Academy for the kids this summer.”

The 2018 Lincoln Arts Academy students were:

Baylor Adams, Sirenna Adams, Kaydin Atwood, Laikyn Atwood, Dennalyn Bailey, Allie Baker, Annie Baker, Samuel Baldwin, Rachel Baldwin, Trevor Bennett, Makenna Berry, Haylie Blessing, Hannah Blessing, Ruby Bratcher, Victoria Brown, Lindsay Bryant, Hayden Byrd, Kaydan Carter, Ahmiah Carter, Elizabeth Chavez, Lexy Clark, Charlie Coffey, Jonah Collins.

Greyson Cornett, Sophie Cornett, Germani Crosby, Zyanya Crosby, Riley Douglas, Olivia Eastham, Desariah Edwards, Presley Ellis, Audrey Foster, Amethyst Fraley, Jesse Friend, Gabe Gander, Zeke Gilliam, Teagan Golden, Chealsea Gonzalez, Triniti Gonzalez, Jaden Gonzalez, Taryn Guinn, Cambria Jacobs, Alex Jones, John Kaminski, AnnaGrace Kirkpatrick, Ella Kirkpatrick, Betsey Hawkins, Laykan High.

Trevor Hill, Kynlee Hill, Sierra Hopkins, Lola Knight, Piper Kubiak, Logan Lawson, Lucas Lawson, Lincoln Lawson, Ethan LeMaster, Autumn McGuffey, Cara Mitchell, Skyra Naylor, Lily Nunemaker, Gentry Osbourn, Riley Parker, Layla Ralston, Griffey Ralston, McKenna Sallee, Natalie Sallee, Destiny Saylor, Carson Saylor, Lydia Schwartz, Jackson Sims.
Zandrea Sizemore, Zayden Sizemore, Alexis Slone, Chance Smallwood, Zea Smith, Hannah Smith, Marcus Smith, Gabriella Smith, Molly Smith, Abbigail Smith, Peyton Sneed, Janna St. Lawrence, Holden Stamper, Hannah Streutker, Paisley Tribuzio, Emily Vorpahl, Parys Walker, Bradley Walters, Carter Whobrey, Ariel Williams, Kayci Witt, Kaitlyn Witt, Kaitlyn Yocum.

The LCAA instructors were:

Musical Theatre – Carlee Cornett, Megan Ralston, Delsie LeMaster.
Visual Art – Allison Gibson.
Culinary Art – Cathy Hill.
Spanish – David Del Rio.
Social Studies – Rachael Yaden.
Culintary Art Assistant – Anna Smith.
Dance & Choreography – Shelby Morgan.