By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON - Youths are using the arts to lobby for cleaner and safer neighborhoods and community green spaces.Through Arts in Action, a youth leadership development program, the city's youngest residents are studying how to make Covington a better place to live.
"We wanted to make our school look better," said Demitrius Walker, 11.
Demitrius, a fifth-grader at Thomas Edison Elementary School, said he and about 10 classmates were upset about trash on their school grounds. They decided to recycle paper to reduce some of the mess.
IF YOU GO
What: Arts in Action Presentation Night
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Holmes Senior High School auditorium, 25th Street and Madison Avenue
Featuring: Performances, art exhibits and other presentations. Refreshments will be served.
Information: Call the Covington Community Center at (859) 491-2220, ext. 17.
The students contacted Mayor Butch Callery to see what they could do. The mayor put them in touch with CSI Waste Services of Greater Cincinnati to start a recycling program at their school.
To collect paper and other recyclable materials, the students worked with Covington artist Jackie Slone to create a mosaic recycling container with the message, "Save our planet.''
On Wednesday, the public can view the projects the youths created at an Arts in Action Presentation Night at Holmes Senior High School.
"Our goal here is to connect youths and adults in civic activities so that the young people can develop a sense of civic responsibility," said Jean St. John, director of community arts initiatives for the Covington Community Center.
At the start of the school year, Arts in Action groups were formed at seven schools: Two Rivers Middle School; Holmes Junior High; and John G. Carlisle, 6th District, Thomas Edison, 9th District and Latonia elementaries.
Participants first explored their neighborhood, then met with local officials and neighborhood leaders to identify a civic issue of importance.
Each group of 10 youths then expressed that concern through an arts project under the direction of artists Pete Jaquish and Jackie Slone, theater artist Tom Reese and videographer Sharon Murphy.
"I found it very interesting that the kids pointed out some of the same problems that the neighborhoods had been talking about for years," said Dennis Fangman, president of the Austinburg Neighborhood Association. "Maybe these kids can set an example in taking more pride in their neighborhoods.''
During the past eight weeks, the youths produced a public service announcement on beautifying Covington, painted a portable mural about a littered and litter-free Latonia; created a mosaic recycling bin for Thomas Edison School; and developed skits on safety, littering and the need for more green spaces.
This spring, the 70 Arts in Action participants will take part in service projects that address the needs they identified.
The youths will join neighborhood leaders on April 26 as they pick up litter for the Great American Cleanup. St. John said organizers hope to continue the learning projects through the summer.
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