Boys and Girls Club hosts children-focused art gallery to promote self-confidence

Stage fright prevents many adults from expressing themselves in front of others. When children are asked to do so, in cultures where image can be everything, it can be even harder. When the culture encourages them to do so anyway, however, the results can be dramatic.

The Boys and Girls Club hosted an art gallery Thursday evening from 5 to 6 p.m. Children from a variety of ages had the chance to showcase their artistic expression.

For the organizers of the gallery, the grand prize of a bicycle was only part of the motivation the children felt.

Program Director Shelly Parham said the show was meant to show the parents what their children work on while at the center.

“It is meant to be an open house feel,” Parham said. “We want to engage parents with what the children are doing.”

Jessica Dameron, an art teacher at the Boys and Girls Club, said the gallery gave students a chance to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities.

“I feel proud they wanted to take part in this,” Dameron said. “They did it for me, but they also really enjoyed it for themselves.”

The Boys and Girls Club is a membership-based after-school program that provides a safe space for children to stay after school when their parents are busy or otherwise unable to bring them home right away.

The center provides homework services, called a “Power Hour” among a wide variety of programs and services for children of all ages.

“We are getting kids ready for life,” Parham said.

She said every activity the children participate in during their time there, be it art or gym or science, has the “intention of learning.” She said everything has an educational aspect to it.

“Art is important at the higher level of learning,” Parham said. “It is a form of self-expression.”

Dameron said her four years working at the center has shown her the value in the club’s mission statement.

“We want to enable all young people to reach their potential,” she said. “I love seeing these kids grow and develop as individuals, and I am glad they still come here.”

Parham said that enthusiasm is proof of the value of the club.

“You can hear the sounds of joy and fun everywhere in here,” Parham said.

The art gallery had judges determine a top three in each age group, and though first places winners will receive a bike, Parham said everyone walked away with something to commemorate their hard work.

She said programs like the art gallery serve to uplift and motivate children to become more productive and successful adults when they grow up.

“Before I was here, I did not hear a lot of positives about the club,” Dameron said. “There are a lot of misconceptions, but this is a safe space for kids who need it the most. We are open a lot later than other after-school areas.”

Parham said the children’s excitement at being at the center proves its value to the community and the good it does every day.

“I want to put my own children here,” Parham said.

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