Teaching Young Writers: Cheryl Carvajal receives art award
Dr. Cheryl Carvajal, teacher and writer, has been named the Art Educator of the Year.
This is the third time the award was given this year
Carvajal received the honor Monday afternoon during a reception at the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts. She was gifted with a miniature typewriter.
Having been with the center since fall 2019, Carvajal was instrumental in implementing its Young Writers League.
“It’s pretty much a shock,” Carvajal said of receiving the award. “The reason it’s a shock is because I just know so many teachers here give their time every single week – and many of them, for several years.”
Students in the free YoWL program, ages 11-18, virtually meet at 11 a.m. Saturdays on the digital communication platform Discord. Utilizing Discord allows her to “reach the kids wherever they happen to be,” Carvajal said.
YoWL is funded by a grant the Turner Center received from the Georgia Council for the Arts in July 2020, Harlee Webb, art education administrator, said during the reception.
The meetings began in-person but moved online once the pandemic began, though there was talk beforehand of having virtual meetings. During sessions, writing prompts are given to the students and ideas are shared.
Other program sponsors are Guardian Bank, the Greater Valdosta United Way and Snake Nation Press, staff members said in a statement.
Carvajal said she wanted to start the writing program at Turner to provide a therapeutic outlet for middle school and high school students to express themselves.
“So many kids are battling depression; they’re dealing with anxiety and social issues and they’re having trouble making friends – especially when they transfer from middle school to high school,” she said. “They’re dealing with so much stuff.”
She wanted to offer the youth a space where they could cope with their emotions.
The monetary donation from the Georgia Council assisted with establishing a community-wide contest named The Art of Writing, Webb said. She added Carvajal read more than 60 entries for the contest and coordinated judging.
The winning entries were prepared for a manuscript and will appear in an anthology that will be made available in the Turner Center’s gift shop in July, Webb said.
Teaching isn’t new to Carvajal, who has been a college writing educator since 1993.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University in Ada, Okla., a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., and a doctorate’s from University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.
In the past, she taught freshman composition, literature and grammar. She is now an English and humanities instructor at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College.
Webb told guests at the awards reception that Carvajal is an author and an editor of multiple books.
“I’ve always been a writer,” Carvajal said. “When I was a little bitty kid, it took me a long time to say I was a writer but, when I was 6, I wrote my first play.”
The play was a re-tell of “Sleeping Beauty,” she said.
The wife and mother of two writes to tap into her creativity and gain some form of therapy.
“I can work through problems that are in my real life, but I give them to fake characters and make it fictional and try to figure out the answer to some issues that I’m dealing with for real,” she said.
She said she believes reading can help youth handle certain life issues such as anxiety, socialization and others.
Writing has helped her work through her own personal battles while relieving stress.
“I give stresses to my characters so that I don’t have to (stress),” Carvajal said.
She hopes to reach more students through YoWL.
Interested participants can call the Turner Center at (229) 247-2787.