Arts4All Florida is pleased to announce Kayla Kennedy and Christopher Gerakios as the May 2019 Students of the Month.
12 year old Kayla Kennedy was nominated by Marsha Rockhill, her art and music teacher at St. Andrew School in Panama City, Florida. She writes, “Art to Kyla, is as breath is to life and it is her strength and refuge through any storm”. In Kyla’s case, the recent Category 5, Hurricane Michael of October 2018 became a pivotal moment in her relationship with art and how therapeutic it remains in her emotional recovery. Many in Bay County are still traumatized and overwhelmed by the localized destruction that included flooding, destroyed roofs and homes with nowhere to live, however through Kayla’s immense perseverance and talent, her artwork has served her and friends well.
While in Atlanta where her family evacuated to, Kayla, with her art supplies in tow, drew and created art to ease her stress and pass the time. Kayla and her stepfather developed the idea of their spray paint space pictures that were created when she returned to her Panama City home.
Kayla continues to represent not only artistic excellence but remains an inspiration to her fellow students and community members. Ms. Rockhill pens, “Everyone wants to paint and draw like Kayla. This art therapy mentorship of Kayla’s helps all of our student handle their post hurricane home life and brings a smile to all who see it”.
Ms. Rockhill has so many students that have exceptional needs in the Bay County area, especially during the lengthy rebuilding time the community has had to endure and shares, “Kayla is that one person who can be the calm in the middle of a storm and come out stronger as a mentor and inspiration to others with her character and her love of sharing arts joy and healing powers with others”.
Kayla is a leader around campus and a very active member of SWAT, Students Working Against Tobacco. She has had her art displayed at the Bay District’s top arts shows including Best of Bay and Arts Alive.
20 year old Christopher Gerakios is passionate about art, especially when it comes to his favorite topic of discussion, airports, planes and football stadiums. He’s quite skilled in expressing his thoughts on an art piece, however his disability, autism spectrum disorder, has always hampered his ability to focus and build relationships leaving him somewhat isolated. No so much now! After entering into Ms. Kannan-Adams’ extended transition classroom and cultivating a way to quiet his mind, this loud, disruptive young man now articulates that he would like to “do better now that he is an artist”, Ms. Kannan-Adams shares. “When he holds a brush and starts painting, he forgets all of his troubles and an observer can see how therapeutic [art] is for him.”
Art, for Christopher, is not about the product. He’s a fundamental example of how the creative process can nurture personality development, support emotional growth and encourage self-awareness, all reasons Ms. Kannan-Adams felt this exceptional student deserved recognition. “He gives his all now and it is inspiring to watch. He has sold several pieces of art at school and many times does not even want to have lunch, so that he can paint”, she expounds.
Christopher recently exhibited his work in Tampa with other Arts4All Florida Student of the Month nominees at the local Penguin Project’s theatre performance of Aladdin, Jr.
The Arts4All Florida Student of the Month Program is designed to increase public awareness and recognize the impact arts make on students with disabilities statewide. Students who participate in the arts develop creativity, have increased self-confidence, understand teamwork, have increased language and math skills and are generally more engaged.
For more information about the Student of the Month program and others, please visit www.arts4allflorida.org.
The nominations for the 2018-2019 school year are now closed. Please check back in August for the 2019-2020 program.