Whale Branch Middle student poets celebrated by family for publication in 'River of Words' project

features@islandpacket.comMarch 23, 2014 

At the "River of Words" reception March 14 at ARTworks in Beaufort are, from left, seated: Anna Greene and Ophelia Thorp; standing: Khari Hale-Bey, Deborah Sutton, Nia Sutton and Gladys White.

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    Email David Lauderdale at dlauderdale@islandpacket.com.

Thanks to Bluffton High School teacher Julie Collins for sharing a story about a Sheldon family's artistic achievement.

River of Words By Julie Collins

This spring, Beaufort County schools are celebrating the annual River of Words art and poetry competition, where students showcase poetry and art in the new publication, "River of Words: Musings on Port Royal Sound Through Poetry and Art."

The student publication is the culmination of an interdisciplinary learning experience about the sound's watersheds. It is in its fourth year, and more than 25 schools with students in kindergarten through 12th grade participate.

At a reception March 14 at ARTworks in Beaufort, two cousins from the Sheldon area excitedly thumbed through the book, looking for their newly published works to show off to family members, who proudly looked on.

Deborah Sutton, mother of seventh-grade poet Nia Sutton, said she received a telephone call from the district office informing her that her daughter's poem titled "Yellow Flowers" was selected for this year's publication.

Nia attends Whale Branch Middle School, where art teacher Kendra Wheeler coordinated a lesson outside last fall, having the students find a quiet spot to take in the natural beauty of the grounds surrounding the school. That's where Nia found inspiration for her writing. Beautiful in its simplicity, her poem captures a moment in time where Nia overlooked the marsh and water while simultaneously deepening her appreciation for our local watersheds.

Khari Hale-Bey, Nia's cousin who attends eighth grade at the same school, was also published. His poem is titled "Tree Tops."

Khari said that he fixated on the tops of the trees during his class outing.

"I just looked up and saw them; they were beautiful to me," he said as he pointed out his poem in the book.

Khari is also an artist who had a painting displayed at the Red Piano Too Art Gallery on St. Helena Island. His painting of clothes on a line makes him very proud -- he said he couldn't part with it for any amount of money.

This was his first time his writing was published, and he said he was surprised and excited about seeing it in a book.

Family support for the two artistic and creative children was evident that evening at ARTworks: Parents, grandparents and aunts were all there to celebrate, and a special dinner was planned for afterward.

To have two children published in the same book, when more than 3,400 students participated, is quite an accomplishment.

The book will be on sale throughout March at ARTworks in Beaufort.

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