A Project for Students and Citizens

Elba: Week One

In Elba on May 29, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Alexis Sankey is living democracy in Elba, Alabama.  Originally from Highland Home, she is a sophomore majoring in psychology at Auburn University. Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.  

I am very excited to finally be in Elba! It feels good to actually be living here now and getting to know everyone in the area. More importantly, I’m most excited to get started planning for the youth art program called JumpstART. Even though I’ll be quite busy with that, I hope to take on other endeavors, so that I can get deeply rooted into the community.

I would say that my first full week here in Elba was interesting to say the least. Throughout this week I’ve met so many people. I’ve met church members, business owners, parents, and many more people. I’ve also learned a bit more about the town history since I’ve been here. For the first few nights, I was staying at the historic bed and breakfast in town that has a marker on it to signify the flood level from the 90’s. I thought it was really cool that I was sleeping in a bit of history. I’ve enjoyed getting to learn more about the town and the people day to day.

One thing that I think sets Elba apart from any other town is an emphasis on being self-sufficient. The city of Elba is fully aware of what they want and need, and they have no problem working toward getting it themselves. Everyone here lends a helping hand wherever they feel they’re needed. When strolling through the downtown area, you notice that almost every business has a person’s last name in the name of the business. It’s all self-started and self-owned. This, to me, shows that each of these people saw a need in the town for something, or felt they had an idea that would contribute to the town, and acted on it. I love living in a place that is not just content, but always striving for more.

Apart from the art program, JumpstART, I want to find other ways to get engaged in the community. I’ve already started digging for some new venues. So far, I’ve realized that a great deal of civic conversations and mingling takes place in churches. Religion is a very important part of life in Elba. I’ve been attending the young adult Bible study held in the coffeehouse every other Monday night. It’s been a lot of fun so far. My community partner, Mart Gray, is a local pastor, so it wasn’t hard to get involved. Also, I’ve been spending some of my mornings and afternoons at the coffeehouse. Usually I’m there having meetings or doing work planning for JumpstART, but I try to make myself available to meet as many people as I can. So far, I’ve met many interesting people day-by-day who in some way have had something to offer. I’m also looking into getting involved with the local senior citizens center. I’ve been talking to one of the coordinators there, and we’re deciding if we’d like to do art there as well, or if I should just come to help with whatever they might need. We’ll see how that develops!

The thing that will keep me most busy throughout the summer will be the JumpstART project. The age range is from 4 years old to 4th grade. My hope is to get local artists from the community involved. We’ll be incorporating real art materials (pastels, watercolors, etc.), town history, and art vocabulary. At the end we’ll have a huge celebration that will include an awards ceremony, as well as a display of each child’s artwork. This will take a lot of work, but I’m certain that with my community partner and all the other connections I’ve made within Elba, it is more than possible. We’ll be meeting twice a week to engage in challenging art projects and hopefully some field trips! I cannot wait to see the outcome of all of our collaborative efforts. I’m also excited to see the creativity that can come from such young minds. It’s all about the youth and the community this summer. Since I’ve arrived in Elba, we’ve hit the ground running. Good things are sure to come in these next nine weeks, I’m sure of it!

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