It was in the fourth grade that my life was impacted profoundly by a wonderful woman named Mrs. Sexton, who happened to be my ART teacher. She encouraged me, complimented me, and allowed all my artistic visions to become a reality. She was the first teacher I ever had who seemed to understand me.
That year we were told to pick a subject for our papier-mâché project. When I announced that I wanted to make a life-sized alligator that was 9 feet long, the kids in the class said “YOU can’t do THAT,” and Mrs. Sexton said, “YES Alexis CAN !!!”
Mrs. Sexton ended up staying with me after school for almost two weeks so I could complete my masterpiece. None of the kids could believe what I had accomplished. When I finished making my giant alligator, my mom arrived at school in her big station wagon, and we loaded my creation up. Pulling out of the parking lot with the tail hanging through the open tailgate window, I proudly waved goodbye to all the school buses filled with my classmates. I do believe in the quote, “What one’s mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” but honestly this ended up better than I had ever imagined!!!
One of my greatest passions in this life is to show children that what they imagine can become a reality if they don’t give up and don’t listen to the naysayers—just like Mrs. Sexton showed me at Greenbriar Elementary in Indianapolis, IN!!! I have been blessed to volunteer and work with many children throughout my life. I’ve always had a dream of going on tour with my music and art–
stopping at local shelters, boys and girls clubs, and other places that help children in tough situations along the way. I want to encourage them to dream and create a project that has to do with their dream. I want to sing with them and leave them with their finished project, along with donated art supplies or musical instruments. Being able to help them conceive something in their minds and create it with their hands, would remind them that their dreams CAN and WILL take form and take flight!!! I bet Mrs. Sexton never had a clue how much she changed my life and I want to continue to honor her.
While living in Atlanta, I have fallen in love with three organizations: The Songs For Kids Foundation (www.songsforkids.org); re;imagine/ATL(www.reimagineatl.com); and drawchange(www.drawchange.org). All three of these empower youth in some way– And all the youth empower me with their incredible determination, courage, and love.
Recently CW69, Atlanta’s local CBS affiliate, interviewed drawchange, and I was invited as a guest volunteer. The interview will be aired this Sunday at noon. Keisha, the interviewer asked me why I was volunteering for drawchange. I wanted to tell her about how I was a musician and artist and how art saved my life; how I wanted to bring Ms. Sexton’s spirit to every child who never experienced someone believing in their greatness; and how, at a U2 concert as a teen, I saw my vision of helping youth while my fingers were burning from the flame of my Bic lighter. But instead I gave the shortest version I could so we could focus on what drawchange is accomplishing.
Later that afternoon, drawchange hosted an incredible art show for children from a local Atlanta shelter. Cooper Global Luxury Limousines picked the kids up and transported them to the art show at The Mall at Peachtree Center. The whole thing was organized by Urban Enterprises, and Dairy Queen, Chick-fil-A, Caribou Coffee, Great American Cookies, Willy’s Mexicana Grill, Piece Of Cake and a ton of other vendors delivered an absolute feast and it was magical!!!
Seeing the look of pride on the mother’s faces and the joy in the children’s eyes just can’t be defined by words on a page that are worthy of that moment. Several of the children and their mothers asked if they could take the art work home. Sadly, I told them they would have to wait for two weeks. They looked disappointed, but I imagined them taking their prized pieces home to their bunk beds in the shelter in two weeks knowing they created a journey full of incredible surprises.
It took me back to the day when I waved at all the school buses with my alligator hanging out of the back of my mother’s woody-wagon!!!
I still dream of going on tour with my music and visiting kids in each town to make a happy memory they can hold onto as long as they want, remembering that what they dream and believe can be a reality. Until that time comes, I will be thankful to organizations like Songs For Kids Foundation, re;imagine ATL, and drawchange for creating a wonderful opportunity for me to volunteer. If you live in Atlanta, please check out these organizations. Also, if you know of any organizations that empowers youth by artistic and creative endeavors, please let me know!!! It is my passion to help them in any way I can.