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Pirates paint picture of unity with school of fish

One classroom at Corinth Holders High School is bringing students throughout the school together by designing and painting 80 large fish for a local greenway.

For the past five months students in the Life Skills class at CHHS have been working diligently on their “Fish Project.” The rotating outdoor student art project was initiative started in 2013 by a Town of Clayton volunteer board to help beautify the Sam’s Branch Greenway with wooden artwork painted by local schools.

Sarah Jeffery, a Corinth Holders High teacher, approached the Town of Clayton after noticing the current fish on the greenway were beginning to look weathered. In return, the town asked for help from Jeffery and her class.

Originally when I took on this project I thought we would do about ten fish and our Life Skills students would work on them and really be proud of that work,” said Jeffery. “I thought this would really make them shine a little brighter.”

However, the town requested Jeffery and her students tackle creating between 70 to 80 fish for the greenway. Knowing this would be quite the undertaking for her small class, Jeffery recruited several clubs from the school to help.

“I thought this would be the perfect way to bring the student body together. We already have the Circle of Friends Club that comes in and works with my class on a regular basis,” said Jeffery. “This is a great way for students who don’t typically interact with our students to get into the classroom with them and work towards a common goal.”

Students have thrown themselves into the Fish Project by painting different designs that represent the diversity of the Corinth Holders community. The project was a team effort among teachers as well. Art teacher Kristi Nobers designed the fish and agricultural science teacher Matthew Barnhill cut the pattern out of wood.

Isabella Pettit, a Corinth Holders High student and member of the Circle of Friends Club, has fallen in love with the project.

“I’ve been helping Mrs. Jeffery with the Fish Project for a few weeks now, and it’s amazing how different each of the clubs are but also how alike they are. It shows how unified we are here at Corinth,” said Pettit.

Pettit said she is proud to see the way that her school has come together through this project.

“As soon as you walk through the door titles don’t really matter. Everyone is there to have a good time. It’s a place of inclusivity, and everybody knows that they’re welcome,” said Pettit. “You could be having the worst day possible and as soon as you walk through the door everything becomes infinitely better.”

The art project has not only brought students together, but members of the community have also come to the school to paint alongside Jeffery’s class. Johnston County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow and Johnston County Board of Education members Tracie Zukowski and Ronald Johnson were just a few of the community members who came to the school to lend a helping hand.

“To me the important part of this project is that it has shown all students have the capability to express themselves not only verbally but also through the arts,” said Zukowski.

Jeffery received donations from the community for the wood and paint needed to complete the project, along with supplies purchased by the Town of Clayton’s Public Art Advisory Board.

The students created a “thank you” fish dedicated to those who helped provide supplies. Local businesses who supported the project are Hudson’s Hardware in Clayton, Sherwin Williams of Smithfield, Lowe’s Home Improvement of Smithfield, and Guy C Lee Building Materials. Substitute teacher James Faggart also arranged to have a $250 gift card donated to the project.

As a part of the project, students also decided to paint a fish in memory of Amy Renfrow, the late wife of Dr. Renfrow. Amy served as principal of Corinth-Holders Elementary School and assistant principal of Glendale-Kenly Elementary.

Corinth Holders High Student Body President Emma Hardy designed the fish dedicated to Amy with help from Dr. Renfrow.

“I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Renfrow at one of our student leaders meetings to learn about some of her favorite things,” said Hardy. “Her favorite flowers were yellow roses, so that is the focal point of the fish. I also included her initials on the mason jar that the flowers are in.”

Jeffery’s class, along with the help of other clubs are still painting fish and encourage the community to come out and help them. The students will unveil their fish at the Clayton Visual Arts Meet-the-Artist Reception on April 4 at The Clayton Center at 6 p.m. before they are permanently added to the Sam’s Branch Greenway, a 1.25 mile stretch on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Clayton.

“I’m excited about my family seeing my fish up on the greenway,” said Corinth Holder High student Trinity Jefferies.