Kids in substance abuse prevention program participate in `Olympic Wall'

The very face of downtown Atlanta was changed as the city prepared for the Centennial Olympic Games. Area youth joined in those efforts by creating a mural that brightens the Marietta Street area, thanks to a project partially sponsored by the Rollins School of Public Health.

The Project MARTIN Olympic Wall was designed and painted by students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and represents the combined efforts of three groups: 1) Project MARTIN (Mentoring Adolescents Through Risk Reduction Training, Insulation and Nurturing), a substance abuse prevention demonstration program aimed at high-risk youth, supported by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention of the School of Public Health; 2) Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School Art Department, and 3) Level 2 Art Gallery.

"Precisely the same creative energy extinguished by substance abuse has been captured and expressed upon a brilliant canvas," said Ronald Braithwaite, principal investigator of Project MARTIN and associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education at Emory. "This effort is a glowing example of how youthful energy can be channeled positively."

Project MARTIN's purpose in supporting the wall project "was to allow the children living in the Olympic venue area to contribute a positive message to the world when visitors and participants visit Atlanta for the historic Olympic Games," said Project MARTIN director Barbara King-Rogers. "Many of these students look at the mural as their only opportunity to participate in the Summer Games."

A Project MARTIN student picked the theme for the wall: "Winners are ordinary people with extraordinary determination." Under the direction of Joseph Davis of the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School Art Department and local artist Chris Ewing, students developed the theme into a series of drawings, which, once combined, form the foundation for the mural.

MARTIN students worked side by side with art students from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to paint the boards, which have been hung outside Level 2 Gallery for display. Several people and organizations, including local carpenters' and painters' unions, donated services and materials to make the mural a reality.

"We must tap those `canvases' which exist within the community--such as sports and scouting--that are ready and waiting to involve high-risk youth," said James Curran, dean of the School of Public Health.

In addition, some of these same students will be part of a cultural and educational journey to Senegal in west Africa in 1997 as part of Project MARTIN's Rites of Passage component.

-- Lorri Preston

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