Hopewell teens invited to Capitol: Recognized for making positive impact on community

Teenagers making a difference in their community received a special invitation from Del. Carrie E. Coyner [R - 62nd] to tour the Virginia State Capitol. The delegate also invited the teens to display their artwork with other Hopewell Public School students in an exhibit outside of her office.

The teens were nominated by a diverse group of community leaders to be in the Lamb Center for Arts and Healing's [Lamb Arts] Creative Change Makers program. The leadership program spurs community change through creative action.

From left to right, Del. Carrie E. Coyner, Hopewell High School students, and Lamb Arts Co-Founder and Executive Director Eliza Lamb pose for a photo in front of the Capitol in Richmond, Va.

“It was truly life-changing when joining Lamb Arts as a Change Maker," Andrew Coleman said. "There is much you get to experience and something like visiting the Richmond Capitol to visit a House delegate is something I could not see happening anytime soon if I was not a Change Maker."

Fifteen Hopewell High School students caravanned to Richmond on Feb. 2 for a day they will not soon forget: Destiny Rutty, Andrea Claiborne, Jomar Ruiz, Andrew Coleman, MyKesha Piggee, Greg Coleman, Aryana [Ary] Leek, Emelyn Franco Giron, Phylisha Taylor, Alexandria [Alex] Johnson, Madison Turner, Faith Sample, Jennifer Rodriquez Davila, Elijah Haynes, and Morgan Hardy.

After a guided tour, they met with Coyner's Legislative Intern Sean Corbett and Legislative Assistant Meg Graham who detailed the ins and outs of Virginia’s House of Delegates.

On the left, Del. Carrie E. Coyner visits with Hopewell High School students in her office at the Virginia House of Delegates building in Richmond, Va.

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"The students enjoyed a lengthy question and answer session with Delegate Coyner before she escorted them over to the House of Delegates," Lamb Arts Co-Founder and Executive Director Dr. Eliza Lamb said.

As the teens observed from the House Gallery, Coyner stated the following during the House Session:

"Today we are joined by the Lamb Center for Arts and Healing, a non-profit located in Hopewell dedicated to helping underserved communities thrive through accessible, high-quality arts programming and mind, body, spirit healing opportunities.

"They are joined by a special group of Hopewell High School students participating in Lamb Arts' Creative Change Makers program. Through this nomination-based teen leadership program in partnership with Hopewell Public Schools, these outstanding students make positive change through creative action in their community.

"We applaud them for their commitment to their community," Coyner said.

Hopewell School's Director of Secondary Instruction Janice [Jan] Butterworth, Hopewell High School Assistant Principal Larry Cherry Jr., and Lamb Arts Program Manager Amanda Vtipilson were also in attendance.

Students' reactions

“I had so much fun and loved learning about the House of Delegates. This experience motivated me to dream bigger," Piggee said. "I also know that I have a voice, and there are people who speak for me and others like me."

"It made me think I have the potential to run for office one day," said Franco.

“This experience has made me more aware about what’s going on in Virginia," Claiborne said. "And, definitely making a change one step at a time."

“This trip has helped me think more about wanting to run for office in the future,” Taylor said.

“It made me look at things from a different perspective. It makes me realize that everyone has a voice but the only voices heard are the ones that speak up,” Greg Coleman said.

MyKesha Piggee poses for a photo next to her poem with contributions from the 2022 Lamb Arts Teen Captains on display on the wall outside of Del. Carrie E. Coyner's office.

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Art exhibit

Lamb Arts installed an exhibition featuring the work of students from all seven of Hopewell City Public Schools as well as collaborative pieces by members of the Creative Change Makers program.

"Thirty-seven student pieces were pulled from workshops led by our staff in the fall in collaboration with art teachers at each school," Lamb said. "The exhibition also features a large collaborative mural and poem made by members of the Creative Change Makers program."

Creative Change Makers program participants pose for a photo with the mural they created.

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Mural makes a splash

A large fabric mural hangs in the halls of the Pocahontas Building. The cyanotype piece, an early form of the photographic process, features outlines of hands, leaves, and art-making tools.

According to Lamb, the piece was created by members of the third cohort of the program following intensive, week-long training last fall.

"The images included in the piece symbolize important elements of their work," Lamb said. "The hands show them coming together, the leaves represent the change they are trying to make, and the art-making tools are the creative materials they are using to make positive changes in the community."

The exhibit located on the fourth floor of the Virginia House of Delegates building is on display through the first week of March. Visitors are welcome to view it Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Enter through the security checkpoint at 900 E. Main Street. Visit virginiacapitol.gov for more information.

Hopewell High School students visit the Virginia State Capitol on February, 2, 2022.

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Creative Change Makers

Once accepted into the program, teens take part in ongoing creative leadership training focusing on problem-solving, entrepreneurship, community service, mentorship, career preparation, and building local knowledge.

"After completing the program, teens are hired by the organization to serve as Lamb Arts Teen Captains," Lamb said. "Taking students through the cycle of positive leader identification, skills training, and eventually, employment."

After witnessing his own and his peers' accomplishments and listening to their happiness and excitement, Andrew Coleman realized that a change is not only being made in their community and others but from within themselves.

"We as Change Makers are becoming stronger and the stronger we become the more we can accomplish together to bring change and peacefulness in our community," Andrew Coleman said. "Life is short but we all must make the best of it together, and Lamb Center for Arts and Healing has truly made an impact on me and has shown just what good change is.”

Visit lambarts.org to learn more about Lamb Arts and their Creative Change Makers program which is made possible through the generous support of the John Randolph Foundation.

Claiborne loved the adventure that opened her eyes, and she is grateful for the opportunities that the Creative Change Makers program offers.

"If you want to change the world, start by changing your community," Claiborne said. "It all starts with you."

The teens ended their journey at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where they ate lunch and explored its galleries.

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This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: Hopewell teens tour Capitol: Del. Coyner recognizes Lamb Arts program