Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

THE VISIONS OF some teenage students could make a beautiful garden even more impressive if folks agree to incorporate the plaques made by special education students at BOCES into their Sullivan Renaissance projects.

Renaissance Has
A New Look

By Jeanne Sager
FERNDALE — July 6, 2004 – Sullivan Renaissance wants to be an equal opportunity employer.
When the community beautification project began, the focus of founder Sandra Gerry was to bring neighbors together, working to better their own towns.
Stipulations for communities that earned grants for their projects directed them to incorporate children and civic groups into their work if at all possible.
Now the folks at the Gerry Foundation are looking to find a way to include some kids who don’t always get to show their community pride.
The CORE group at Sullivan County BOCES is full of students who are learning disabled – kids who put their hearts and souls into making signs for this year’s Renaissance program.
Using wood and paint provided by the Gerry Foundation, the kids painted their own vision of the Renaissance logo – a multi-colored rooster.
Now the plaques are available to any group that is involved in Renaissance – and groups are being asked to find a place for them so these students can say, “Hey, I helped in my community too.”
According to Gerry Foundation spokesperson Glenn Pontier, Renaissance has given honor students and seniors who needed community service hours a place to donate their time and make a real difference. The JEMS in Jeffersonville have a yearly bowl-a-thon that gets kids in who like to bowl.
“We were looking . . . how can we include more kids?” Pontier explained. “So we went to BOCES, which we’ve done for several years.”
In the past, the kids in the multi-occupational classes at the Liberty facility have made the plaques.
Those are the kids who have been taking specialized classes for several years – they’re what BOCES spokesperson Donna Karkos would call pre-employment courses.
But this year, BOCES decided to give some other kids a chance.
The students in CORE take what is essentially a “scaled-down version of career and tech,” Karkos said.
“It’s like a liberal arts career and tech program,” she explained. “They get to see a little bit of each portion of career and tech – it’s to give kids hands-on experience.”
It’s a sort of primer to career and tech for high school students who have spent most of their academic careers in special education.
Because these students aren’t experienced in the craft, the plaques are more like rough drafts to those handed out to groups in the past.
But Pontier hopes people will look past the rough exterior to see the time and heart that went into each wooden design.
Renaissance is about beauty, sure. But it’s also about community.
“When they’re working with kids, I always tell people if your garden looks stunning, that’s fine,” Pontier said. “If it doesn’t, put a neat little sign on it that says, ‘children’s garden,’ and it gives it a whole new perspective.”
“This is what their vision of this is,” Karkos added. “These kids take more pride in it because they never get to be involved and do something like this – to see the looks on their faces . . . it’s amazing.”
That’s the kind of thing that gets Pontier and the rest of the Gerry Foundation going.
“What amazes me is the variety of what people have come up with,” he said, listing projects that range from an eagle viewing station over the Delaware to a gazebo on Main Street.
Each community has its own unique take on beautification, he said, and the same can be said for each kid in Sullivan County.
“We’d like people to figure out a way to incorporate these kids’ vision,” Pontier said. “We’re really proud of it.”
For more information or to get a plaque for your Renaissance project, call Glenn Pontier at 295-2410.

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