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Some art students have Ward worried with talk of dropping out

Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / April 6, 1998

RESERVE – Jeannine Ward fears for the futures of several of her students.

Some of the East St. John High art teacher’s students who aren’t yetseniors are already talking of quitting school.

“Last year I had two or three drop out, and this year there’s about two or three who are dropping out,” Ward said. “That’s a lot because I teach verysmall numbers.”In her 24 years of teaching art at the high school, Ward has seen several students in the Visually Talented art program drop out of school.

“One dropped out a few years ago and already got into trouble with drugs,” she said. “There are other ways to make money, and I wish they could seethey can do it in a more productive way.”Ward denotes the high numbers of drop outs to the fact that the only area these students are fulfilled in at school is art class. Ward said they leaveto find other fulfillment – fulfillment that pays a living.

“Unfortunately the things that seem to fulfill them aren’t healthy,” Ward said. “I wish there was a way out for these kids before they go the wrongway.”Randy Williams’ forte is drawing portraits.

Williams, now a sophomore at East St. John, first realized he had God-given talent in the seventh grade at Glade School when he and some classmates were working on a backdrop for a school dance.

“It was in Art I,” he said. “Mr. Washington said I had talent and I shouldget into the gifted art program. So I did, but I didn’t do portraits until Iwent to East St. John.”Ward would like to see Williams take his impeccable talent to the sky’s limit, but Williams is one of the students talking of dropping out of school.

“I’m already three grades behind,” Williams said. “I just want to get outof school and get my GED. I’m scared I will keep failing and keep goingback.”But to just take a glance at his pencil drawings of classmates, one can unmistakably identify which one he is portraying in the art work, right down to wisps of hair and ear and nose shape.

His type of talent is often overlooked, Ward said, because his talent is artistic and not linguistic.

“In education we don’t always esteem all of the intelligences,” she said.

Ward added that students who are talented in math and language – major subjects – are more likely to be recognized than those who excel in the arts – a minor subject.

“Culture doesn’t respect the arts, and they just aren’t given a place,” Ward said. “But someone had to design everything – your clothes, yourglasses, the band-aid on your finger, packaging of food – everything. Butunfortunately we tend to think the arts are minor.”After dropping out, Williams plans to get his GED and go to vocational school, even though he would really like to do some type of art as a career.

But there is always that fear of not being able to succeed in a harsh world of unappreciation and the insecurity of not having anything else to fall back on, if unsuccess does occur.

“I want to do art,” Williams said. “But if not, I would like to be acarpenter or a welder.””I think there are better jobs out there that are better suited for him,” Ward said, reassuringly. “We have so much talent that has to be tapped andused or it will go to waste. I would much rather see them do this for aliving than something else they are OK at, but someone else can do.””I want to try to get a good career and just hope for that,” Williams said.

Ward feels that the only hope for her current troubled students is to get them in the workplace so they can get a taste of what having a real job is like. Once they have that taste, Ward feels they will be prone to stay inschool, wanting to get their diplomas or get further training.

“These are talented students,” Ward said. “They could help a company withtheir advertising look.” Or paint a mural to spruce the place up, she added.

“I would like to see someone in the community take one of these kids under their arms and mentor them,” Ward said. “With the great amount oftalent they have, if someone took the time to mentor them they could have a polished diamond when they were through. And one more happily-employed person in LaPlace can’t hurt.

“There are things out there for them,” Ward added. “I don’t want them toresort to other things than their talent.”

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