On February 8th and 9th, 2019, graduate students from the Florida State University Art Therapy Program collaborated with Bay Arts Alliance in Bay County to provide a therapeutic arts program, Stars of HOPE® , to those impacted by Hurricane Michael. Stars of Hope reached youth in the 5th grade classes as they painted stars that were later hung in some of the hardest hit parts of the county. The painted Stars of Hope were created to help bring hope and support to the residents as they continue to rebuild the community. FSU Art Therapy graduate students have shared about their experiences in reflection of their participation in the creative aid efforts:
Heather Robbins states,
Stars of Hope was a memorable and humbling experience for me. I worked with about a hundred students at a school in Bay County that was affected by Hurricane Michael and had the opportunity to help the students share their messages of hope on their stars through painting. It was an experience I will never forget.
Michelle Torrech Perez says,
Working with Stars of Hope in Panama City was a highly valuable opportunity for the FSU Art Therapy Association (FSU-ATA) to go beyond the classroom and serve an affected community through the healing arts. Using my own personal experiences of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, I focused on immersing myself in that community’s reality and being as present as possible. Through my art therapy training and under the art teacher’s guidance, I allowed 5th grade students at Tommy Smith Elementary to process their experience and explore, express, and share feelings of hope. Overall, most responded well to the teacher’s reflections, immersed themselves in the creative process, were receptive to my questions, comments, and/or feedback, benefitted from working alongside their dear peers, and felt satisfied with their work. After doing so through the colorful decoration of the wooden stars, the elementary students’ creations served to further disseminate such feelings of hope to others. Their resilience was inspiring, their art reflecting their readiness to continue onward and, hopefully, spreading such hope to their community.
Emi Illig states,
It was incredible to see how resilient the kids were, and I was amazed to see the support the teachers provided despite losing some of their homes. On Saturday, I had the incredible opportunity to hang Stars of Hope in the Panama City community. Hanging the stars offered us the opportunity to display the community’s hope, resilience, and bravery.
Audrey Sanchez says,
I am truly thankful to Theresa Sanchez, our FSU-ATA and Florida Art Therapy Association (FATA) liaison, as well as Stars of Hope for collaborating and allowing me the opportunity to be a part of this experience. The children and teachers I worked with were very excited to get a chance to create Stars where they could share their messages of hope with the rest of their community.