In historic downtown Wilson, a group of art students from Hobbton High School marveled at the work of the late Vollis Simpson.
“It was interesting to see how he took like simple pieces of metal and turned it into something ginormous and beautiful,” junior Haley Westbrook said about the metal workings of Whirligig Park.
It was one of several stops during the trip to the Coastal Plain region of the state, which was made possible through the Simple Gifts Fund’s Love of Learning grant program. It’s awarded to teachers and students for educational opportunities in and out of school.
“I love art,” Westbrook said. “It’s fun expressing yourself in different ways using different mediums.”
The Hobbton Art Club and class made recent trips to see artistic sites, courtesy of the gran. One included a downtown tour of Wilmington’s art galleries and lunch at Fat Tony’s. Along with the Whirligig Park in Wilson, the students toured the Arts Council, the Barton College Art Department and ate lunch at Bill’ BBQ.
Art teacher Jennifer Jackson said the grant was a blessing because it can be financially difficult for the students to pay to make such educational trips.
“As an art teacher, it’s made my life a lot better,” Jackson said. “I struggle with funding for anything.”
More than 40 students attended the trips, which helped broaden their horizons and their appreciation for the arts, the Hobbton teacher noted.
“The best part about art is that I get to pour it out on the page,” freshman Katie Hobbs said. “I don’t have to think about it. It just comes out.”
During the trip, freshman Jarret Young said he enjoyed meeting new people.
“I was grateful to see the community and how well they come together to show what they do with their art,” Young said.
He enjoyed watching the inspired artists who put their work on paper or formed it in 3-D shapes, he added.
“You can express yourself in any way,” the freshman said. “You can do it at any moment if you’re feeling down or in a good mood.”
His favorite form of art is drawing, but he recently got into 3-D things.
Like Westbrook, junior Jose Ibarra also enjoyed the Whirligig.
“They look really interesting,” Ibarra said.
He also enjoyed the museums in Wilson. It was his first trip to the city.
“I’m really thankful for the grant,” he said. “Without it, we wouldn’t be able to have those kinds of experiences.”
Ibarra began doing art at an young age and his favorite type is sketching.
“When I get my eyes set on something, I draw a really good drawing,” Jose said.
Art is something he would like to take up in college.
others benefit, too
Thanks to the Simple Gifts program, students from the Hobbton yearbook staff also left Sampson County for a big trip to Atlanta.
Media specialist and yearbook adviser Carla Sutton said the students visited CNN, the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum and attended an Atlanta Braves game.
“I’ve had several kids say it was the best opportunity they’ve ever had,” Sutton said.
She said everyone was thankful for the program, which every educator in Sampson County has the opportunity to apply for.
“The Simple Gifts program is a great opportunity for teachers and students to be able to experience real life events and real life activities,” Sutton said. “It gets you outside the school and learning about things in the real world.”
Technology educator Brandon Thompson recently received Simple Gifts funds to attend the North Carolina Technology Student Association Conference in Greensboro.
Margaret Turlington, Simple Gifts coordinator, said Hobbton High School has been awarded the most Love of Learning grants since the program’s inception. In 2013, the school received more than $21,000 in grants and has been awarded the $1,990 We Dream of Painting our Dreams in 2014.
“It is wonderful to see, as one teacher has seen the impact of the opportunity to enrich the students’ education through experiences and the ability to increase habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection other teachers have applied and been awarded grants,” Turlington said.