By Joel Hall
Ten middle school students from Clayton County Schools will study the natural environment of Jekyll Island, courtesy of the county's Kids Outdoors Scholarship.
On Friday morning, Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department staff will depart with the winners of a recent essay contest, to the Jekyll Island 4-H Center. There, students will enjoy a weekend to include: An excursion on "Anna," the Georgia Department of Natural Resource's research vessel; beach walks; astronomy lessons; seine fishing; sea shell-and-shark tooth searches; and a visit to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a facility that nurses injured sea turtles back to health and reintroduces them into the wild.
The ten students headed to Jekyll Island this weekend are: Zahdia Battick, of Sequoyah Middle School; Devin Boyd, of Rex Mill Middle School; Celynna Dimaranan, of Mundy's Mill Middle School; Taylor Carlington, of Strategic Academic Solutions in Morrow; Nateria Harbor, of Pointe South Middle School; Clarke Martin, of Strategic Academic Solutions in Morrow; Destiny Mays, of Morrow Middle School; Joanne Rabauliman, of Rex Mill Middle School; Damola Sanni, of Rex Mill Middle School; and Myky Truong, of Morrow Middle School.
The winners of the Kids Outdoors Scholarship were honored Tuesday, during a meeting of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.
This spring, according to Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department Marketing and Sales Manager Amy Keeney, seventh- and eighth-grade students from around the county were invited to submit a 250-word essay exploring one of the key points of the Georgia Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights. She said the essay topics explored the ten things the Georgia Recreation and Park Association (GRPA), Inc., believes all kids should do, at least once: Discover Georgia's past; splash in the water; play in a safe place; camp under the stars; explore nature; learn to swim; play on a team; follow a trail; catch a fish; and celebrate their heritage.
"They must have included one of the 10 experiences," Keeney said. "We had some excellent essays. Ten were selected from 91 applications. Some kids wrote about what they wanted to do and some students wrote about an experience that they've had. Most of the kids welcome the ability to be able to enjoy an outdoor experience."
According to Keeney, the essay contest represents the first county-sponsored project in the state supporting the Georgia Kids Outdoors Initiative. The scholarships were funded by the proceeds of the Festival and Barbecue Competition, co-hosted in November of last year by the department and State Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro), she said.
The students will depart by van from Clayton County at 6 a.m., on Friday, and return on Sunday evening. In between, students will explore the north and south ends of Jekyll Island, and on Saturday, will have dinner with Baker at Gnat's Landing restaurant, on St. Simons Island.
Baker said the program is one the county wishes to continue, and that proceeds from the Oct. 2 Lake Spivey Road Race will benefit next year's scholarship winners. He said the trip provides an opportunity to "reintroduce our kids to outdoor activities.
"Our goal is to send twice as many next year," he said. "Many of our kids don't even know what the coastline of Georgia has to offer. Being able to experience them first-hand, and to be able to see and touch things ... I think the memories will be tremendous."