In the basement of the Law Building at Franklin County High School is a special community that brightens up lives around campus and throughout Franklin County. It’s the community of students with developmental disabilities and those who work with them.

These students literally brightened things up on May 7 through their 5th Annual Spring Art Showcase. The Showcase was featured in the morning and again in the afternoon, complete with refreshments students prepared themselves.

Among the approximately 30 in attendance were school board members, administrators, faculty, staff, families and friends. School board member Julie Nix said, “It’s amazing how hard our folks work, the students with their creativity and talents and the staff with their dedication.”

Sandy Coblentz, administrative assistant for the athletic department, said she had so much to do on the Showcase day but she couldn’t miss it. “It makes you feel great when you leave this building.”

Emily Messenger of the Special Education Post Graduate Program said everyone was really impressed with the students’ talents and motor skills. She added, “The students love when they are able to talk and show off their work to everyone. They love visitors and interactions with them. I think the students do an amazing job and always exceed expectations. I am so proud of them each day!”

Student Ben Maly says he likes projects that involve painting.

The students, under the direction of para professional Danielle Hodges, worked since the fall semester on their 14-plus projects for the Spring Art Showcase. Student worked with numerous mediums that included string art, glue and chalk drawing, acrylic pour art, pineapple finger painting, photography, abstract line drawing, pop art, pencil drawing, color resist (crayon and water color), warm and cool painting/cityscape, hand art, super-hero hand painting and flowers made with tissue paper.

Students also had a couple of wood-working projects from their general maintenance class across the street at West Campus.

Hodges explained, “We used a variety of different supplies [such as tempura paint, paint, water color, and acrylic paint]. My goal was to create things with items the kids could easily get for themselves. That way they could make more art on their own.”

When she selects projects she asks herself whether the projects will interest high-schoolers and whether they utilize different mediums. She stressed the importance of choosing age-appropriate projects that take into account that the students are teenagers.

She was quick to add, “I love what I do. They are each so unique, with so much love and capability.”

Sabrina Hicks is a para professional and is passionate about her love for her students. “I want them to feel like they matter. They do matter!”

Bryce Wuergler teaches the students with the most profound disabilities. He describes his work by saying, “I love it! I can’t see myself doing anything else, other than being retired.”

Wuergler said the art projects are a great way for students to express themselves. They also teach the students to follow directions, maintain good behavior and develop skills in handling materials. He added, “[You] can’t really know if you enjoy something unless you experience it.” He feels his students are becoming known as “just the ‘students in the basement,’ but as the ‘students who do really cool art.’”

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