The Chalkboard Project joins Mike Smith in Lincoln, Nebraska event

by Lauren Constantine, News

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The Chalkboard Project, which gained local acclaim last year, went on a road trip this summer. Mrs. Jennifer Gwinnup and Julia Clover, along with Sam and Joe Negen and their father, traveled some 680 miles away to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Spring Lake student Sam Negen photographs motivational speaker Mike Smith for the Chalkboard Project.

Last school year, motivational speaker Mike Smith personally invited the Chalkboard Project to participate in the Skate Art Music Festival in his hometown of Lincoln. This festival, put on by Smith’s nonprofit organization The Bay, encompasses a multitude of skating competitions, photography, and art.

Hundreds of people showed up to enjoy the event, taking in the music, murals, and everything in between. The festival took place in late August, a mere few days before the school year started.

The Chalkboard project group set up camp in a shop, with a set up slightly different than the one Spring Lake students experienced. Participants had their picture taken with the same white background as the students of Spring Lake did during the original campaign. A digital photo was taken as well as a Polaroid. The Polaroids were then placed on black cardboard where people could write uplifting messages, similar to the colorful paper that was placed on the pictures that surrounded our school those many months ago.

When asked about the difference between Spring Lake’s Chalkboard Project and Nebraska’s, Sam Negen answered, “We had a better opportunity to hear about the story behind the word that people wrote, to understand why they wrote what they did.” Negen added that, “There was always a constant stream of people coming in, the positive messages filled the boards.”

One thing that stood out to Sam was the steady reaction mothers had to the word their child wrote on the board. The project proved to be eye opening for many people, even getting covered by the local news station.

Currently The Chalkboard Project is working to bring its work to Grand Haven and Mona Shores, with the possibility of extending the project to several out of state schools and the University of Nebraska.

Mike Smith, whose message resonated with the SLHS student body last spring, will return to Spring Lake on October 16, to talk with parents.

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