CreateAthon: A Tale from Snowball to Snowman

20 Apr

Back in 2010 Leslie told my class and I that our project in professional practices the following semester would be a bit different than it had been in the past. I had recently seen Waiting for Superman and had taken a special interest in the state of education within America, so when Leslie told us that we would be working on projects for a school in Hamilton County, I couldn’t have been more excited. The real kicker was that we would be doing this work under a 24hour time constraint using the model of CreateAthon onCampus. Even though I was super overwhelmed with excitement I couldn’t imagine how a 24 hour project could take up an entire semester.

Oh, but it could.

A few weeks before CreateAthon onCampus was set to take place I realized just how much work goes into an event. During class we were divided up into sub teams to get work done that was pre-CreateAthon. I was added to a final presentation team for Dalewood Elementary  (the school we were working with), and that quickly turned into one of the go to logistics persons as well. I was given an immense amount of responsibility and I loved it.

The day of CreateAthon came around finally. I woke up earlier than I do for my 8 A.M. classes to get my hair ready for the ultimate test: over 24 hours without a washing (doesn’t generally work out for an oily haired girl such as myself). I made it to Dalewood with name tags in hand, and the students were all wearing their “I CAN” t-shirts. All I could do was get more anxious for the pep rally that was about to ensue.

At the pep rally the students were excited, inquisitive, and friendly introducing themselves, asking where I was a student at  and how I liked college. After, we went to get information that we needed to follow-thru on the projects that had been previously defined. I was part of the group creating the online presence for the gallery. I am a lover of all things web and writing mark-up for a website just makes me happy. I couldn’t wait to get back to UTC and get to work.

What surprised me most was how much each pre-described project developed into many others. We wanted to do so much. The online presence for the art gallery manifested into an online presence for the school after Stephanie Whiting approached us with the idea of meshing the two. Figuring out how to do this effectively, how to keep each part as the focus was a bit of a challenge. After hours of revisions we finally came up with a direction that we and our lovely mentors Lee Davis and Kent Callison all felt was strong enough to flesh out within photoshop mock-ups. Delirium set in and a modern world renowned tapestry artist was born who became the featured artist of the mock-ups.

After hours of work, the community presentation was set to occur, and I had to somehow keep it together to talk about the work after all of those hours. What I didn’t realize was that keeping it together for the presentation wouldn’t be the hard part. Dalewood students were amongst the audience members in attendance which was super exciting. Afterwards the students began giving hand-painted thank you notes to all of us involved and one of them read “thanks for believing in us.” That is where I had to try to keep it together. I felt the tears welling in my eyes, and a happiness in my heart.

The most difficult part of CreateAthon was realizing that we couldn’t do everything and figuring out how to keep that in perspective, yet still do everything that we could. I believe many people want to make a difference, but never feel as if their small contributions will amount to anything. Those many people should remember that to build a snowman, you must first start with a snowball. A snowball of good.

CreateAthonCHA

Image Credit: UTC Department of Art, CreateAthonCHA 2011

[Editor’s Note: Co-posted on Kayla Brown’s Blog.]

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