PEMBROKE — Donovan Graham and Jaron Johnson, sixth-grade special education students at Carroll Middle, had an immediate answer for what they enjoyed most about the Very Special Arts Festival.
“Face painting,” they said.
“That was my favorite,” Donovan said.
Donovan and Jaron joined special-needs students from all 42 Robeson County public schools who came to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to enjoy games, music and arts and crafts with teachers and college students at the 11th annual VSA Festival on Wednesday.
The event was held in conjunction with the UNCP School of Education, Disability Support Services and the Public Schools of Robeson County. The Teaching Fellows and other university students played with public school students and helped them make tambourines and key chains.
Sandi Carter, the Arts Education supervisor for the Public Schools of Robeson County, said the festival helps special-needs students have fun “no matter what degree of disability” they have.
“Some students don’t have access to a variety of arts at their schools,” she said. “Some students are self-contained.”
Carter said the event also enables students to interact with their older peers.
“We have it on campus so they get to experience what it’s like to be on a college campus,” she said. “We do it in partnership with DSS and they see students who are succeeding and graduating from college. It lets them know that they can do it too, no matter what.”
Students colored a VSA Festival puzzle, watched the Purnell Swett High School cheerleading team perform stunts and danced to the Band of Directors, a jazz band made up of music teachers from county schools. Jef Lambdin of The InterACTive Theater in Lumberton juggled bowling pins, rings and balls, and magician John Tudor performed magic tricks with his rabbit sidekick, Rodney.
Schools Superintendent Johnny Hunt credited UNCP, saying it does “a great job” hosting the event.
“The kids look forward to it every year,” Hunt said.
Donovan, Jaron and the rest of Jeff Emerson’s sixth-grade-class are no exception. Emerson, who has taught for 25 years, said his students enjoy the festival “very much” and praised UNCP for holding it.
“They do some good stuff here for the Public Schools of Robeson County,” he said.