Art teacher Kelsey Cash is no stranger to winning money for her school. Under her direction, students at Quail Hollow Middle School have proven themselves time and time again with their talents and big ideas.
So it was no surprise when the school was named a winner in this year’s inaugural Rocking the Belk Bowl Contest, although excitement was still high as students and staff learned this year’s win came with $25,000 to spend on technology for the school.
“Obviously it’s very exciting to win this for our school, but I also have so much confidence in our students – they have a lot to be proud of,” Quail Hollow Middle Principal Rachel Neill said. “I want to be humble, but they are awesome.”
Cash and her advanced art class of handpicked seventh- and eighth-grade students designed the Belk Bowl Rock. The contest, which kicked off in October to tie in with the area college football game sponsored by Belk, offered Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools campuses the chance to win money for technology projects and tools by creating educational and Belk Bowl-themed designs on school rocks and bulletin boards. Along with Quail Hollow, Reedy Creek Elementary in east Charlotte and Hopewell High in Huntersville also were awarded $25,000 each. In addition to the three winners, the remaining 20 participating schools each will receive a $1,000 technology grant, including Cotswold, Eastover, Elon Park and Polo Ridge elementary schools in south Charlotte.
Cash and her students have been participating in rock contests for the past three to four years, she said, starting with the Panthers Rock! Spirit Rock Art Contest, where they’ve placed in the top three for the past three years. This year they took second-runner up and earned $400 for the school’s art department.
“To be honest, I always do these rock contests,” Cash said. “When I grew up, there were never contests like this. Really, if it comes to me and we have the time, I’m all about it.”
This year’s Belk Bowl contest came at a difficult time, as the deadline fell just a week before the Panthers contest, but Cash and her crew were pleased they rushed to get both jobs done in such a limited amount of time.
The school’s Belk Bowl design incorporated the rocks in a stadium view, making scoreboards and helmets out of cardboard and designing the Belk logo with wire hangers and panty hoes.
“I choose to do these competitions and we just keep winning,” Cash said. “It just happens, but it’s been amazing. I always go into the contests with the attitude that they have done an awesome job no matter what, even if they don’t win. I’m just so proud of them.”
For seventh-grade student Helen Patton, she wasn’t excited about art until she had Cash’s class as a sixth-grader.
“Now, art is really fun and I look at it in a different way because I never had so much fun doing it before,” Helen said.
For the Belk contest, students in the art class were split into groups and assigned different projects. Helen worked on the petals for the Belk logo and the helmets and also did some of the rock painting.
“Everybody had his or her own job,” she said. “We all had our own ideas and we took small parts of (each idea) and put them together. It was so fun. This is my first time being in honors art so it was such a thrill to win it. I’ve never done something like this and it’s just so exciting to be a part of it.”
Cash and Neill are still discussing how the $25,000 will be used at the school, but both agree some of the money will go directly toward technology for the art department, while the rest will benefit other areas of the school. Cash suggested several ideas, such as a SMART Board for the art room and iPad for her class. She’s also interested in getting Adobe Photoshop for one of the school’s computer labs.
“It would just be cool to incorporate technology,” Cash said. “Art is more than just picking up a paintbrush. It’s everything from designing your house to designing programs for the school. It would definitely grow the program 100 percent.”
Neill agrees, adding that incorporating more technology in the art classroom will help prepare students to excel when they go to South Mecklenburg High School.
And as a Bring Your Own Technology pilot school, Neill hopes to use some of the grant money to purchase more devices for students who might not have their own technology to bring to school, such as iPods, iPads and other handheld devices.
“This was a teacher-led student accomplishment and we are just thrilled to have Ms. Cash’s leadership at the school. It’s very important that we don’t forget how important the arts are to developing students. Most of my work is about developing test scores and student proficiency, but our arts department is one of the great things at Quail Hollow,” Neill said. “I want all of our students to say they are proud of Quail Hollow Middle School.”