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Group helps youths express themselves artistically

Some strutted down the runway, and a few were involved in preparing meals for patrons, while others were content to showcase their art work.

Described as a complete, visual arts exhibition, the "I Am Style" Fashion Show was recently held at the Merle Manders Conference Center in Stockbridge.

It was sponsored the conference center and the retailer, Belk, and was organized in partnership with the Stockbridge-based non-profit organization, Teen Expressions, Inc.

Wearing Belk apparel, area youths marched their way through the event, able to display their talents in the fashion, painting, and culinary arts worlds, said Teen Expressions, Inc., CEO and Founder Elyssa Green.

Green said the Oct. 16 fashion show demonstrated the core objectives of Teen Expressions. She said she established the organization in February 2009, inspired her teenage daughter.

The organization's founder said she noticed that her 16-year-old daughter, Gabrielle Marshall, now a junior at Woodland High School in Stockbridge, had few avenues to support her interests in the commercial arts. So, Green said she decided to create an organization geared toward providing area teens with an outlet for the visual and creative arts, giving them more opportunities to express themselves artistically.

"We hope to help the kids be exposed to other career opportunities," Green said. "We don't just cater to one child, or one ethnicity ... we cater to everyone, because the kid in the middle always gets left out."

Green, a mother of five, said the organization currently serves 75 youths, ages 11-18, throughout the Southern Crescent. She noted that the group consists of four departments of focus — video and film production; creative arts, like painting and sculpting; the culinary arts; and fashion, design, and modeling.

Another of Green's daughters, Nalyssa Marshall, 19, said her mother's organization has helped her learn what she can do in a profession, and what it takes to succeed in that profession.

"I think the organization has so many things to offer to the community, and to the teens in the community," said Marshall, who is also the organization's director of video and film production.

Marshall, who plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design this winter, said she got into video and film production when she was a student at Woodland High.

"I like how people can take words on paper and bring them to life," she said. "My dream is to do a big Hollywood movie, of course, like everybody else. But I would also like to do films about history."

Green said she hopes more young people will be similarly affected the organization. "I hope to be able to help the kids who are caught in the middle, on the fence about deciding where they want to go, to pursue a positive career," she added.

To learn more about the organization, visit www.teenexpressions.org.