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Community, Creativity, and Compassion: Inside the 2023 Children's Cluster

Updated: Mar 12

Photos by Gavin Lindsay of glindzvisuals

About the Children’s Cluster

Jack and Jill of America Superhero Avatars
Pictured: Noah Kwaku and Julia Alston photographed with Decor Committee Chair & South Charlotte Chapter Mom, Melodie Alston. Photo Credit: Yolanda Lindsay

The Mid-Atlantic Region's Children's Cluster, an annual event that brings children ages 5-12 in the region together for a day of enriching workshops, took place on March 4, 2023, at Charlotte Country Day School located in the South Park area of Charlotte, NC. This year's Children's Cluster was hosted by the South Charlotte Chapter under the direction of the Regional Executive Board.

As soon as attendees arrived at the venue, they were met with a warm welcome from our Jack and Jill superhero avatars. The roles of the avatars were played by Noah Kwaku and Julia Alston, who brought an added sense of excitement and fun to the event. Dressed in eye-catching superhero costumes, the avatars were an instant hit with both children and adults alike, creating a festive and engaging atmosphere from the very start of the event. Their enthusiastic energy set the tone for the rest of the day, making it an unforgettable experience for all who attended.

Regional Director Tarcia N. Flemming giving opening remarks at the 2023 Children's Cluster
Regional Director Tarcia N. Flemming giving opening remarks at the 2023 Children's Cluster

"The Children's Cluster this weekend was a resounding success that left a lasting impression on our young ones and their families,” said Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Tarcia N. Flemming. “With a dynamic mix of educational, cultural, and philanthropic activities, we were able to create an environment that fostered learning, fun, and a sense of community. The beaming smiles, enthusiastic thumbs ups, and countless high fives were a testament to the positive impact the event had on our children. We look forward to continuing to provide opportunities for our young ones to learn, grow, and thrive."

Opening Session: The Prologue

The event began with opening remarks from MC Taylor Dee, an educator and entrepreneur who coaches other multi-passionate educators, creates educational music and books for kids and adults, and provides professional development services for leaders through her creative education agency, Right Now Education. Next, regional and national leadership brought opening remarks including Regional Director Tarcia N. Flemming and National Corresponding Secretary Nichelle Levy. South Charlotte Chapter President Dr. Kimberly Odom welcomed everyone to Children's Cluster and the South Charlotte Chapter Associate Jewels introduced the morning's entertainment, Bright Star Touring Theatre.

RD Tarcia N. Flemming pictured with South Charlotte Chapter Jills Caleigh Rae McFarland and Talia Glover. Photo: Gavin Lindsay

Photos by Gavin Lindsay

Bright Star Touring Theatre, a national touring theater company based in Asheville, NC, with a mission to challenge, engage, and delight audiences around the world. The company has performed for a wide range of schools and communities in locations from Seattle, WA to Moscow, Russia, and is capable of adapting to any size audience, from large theaters to small cafeterias and libraries. Bright Star Touring Theatre has over 70 different shows in rotation, covering a range of topics including classic literature, health and wellness, holidays, STEM, diversity and inclusion, bully prevention, cyber safety, and social-emotional learning.

Bright Star Touring Theatre
Bright Star Touring Theatre. Photo by Gavin Lindsay

Enriching Workshops and Performances

After the performance, children participated in a variety of workshops designed to increase confidence, educate on Black history, provide opportunities for personal development and community service, exposure to arts & cultural activities, and a special guest appearance by African American trailblazers. The workshops were led by professionals in the industry, including authors, former professional football players, and entrepreneurs. The sessions were interactive and engaging, allowing children to learn and have fun at the same time.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the exciting and customized workshops that were specially tailored for children of different age groups.

“The event was filled with fun activities and engaging workshops that helped our children learn and grow,” said Dr. Kimberly Odom, South Charlotte Chapter President. “ It was heartwarming to see families from across the Mid-Atlantic Region come together, build relationships, and celebrate the accomplishments of our children. We had a wonderful time celebrating the growth and achievements of all our young members, including our twelve year old Shining Stars who bridged to the teen group and are now eligible to participate in the Teen Leadership Conference 2024."

Did you know an African American man named Augustus Jackson invented ice cream? South Charlotte Jack and Jill Dad, James Hawkins, taught the 5-6 year olds all about him - and they made ice cream! Pictured here with son, Danon Hawkins.

The 5-6 year olds had an absolute blast with three interactive workshops that included a captivating story hour with author Helen Hope Kimbrough and a cooking class where they learned to make ice cream with the guidance of one of our South Charlotte Jack and Jill Dads, James Hawkins, who played the role of ice cream inventor Augustus Jackson.

Similarly, the 7-8 year olds were treated to an interactive literary workshop with author Kya Johnson and a thrilling superhero racing academy where they conducted a chemistry experiment using household items to power their race cars.

The 9-11 year olds were engaged in workshops that focused on important life skills and athletic drills in What's Your Story, which was led by Tori Gurley, a TV analyst and former NFL player. They also had the chance to explore their inner superhero scientist in the Slimy Science Fun workshop. All the age groups also participated in the Foundation for Hospital Art, a community service project where all the artwork created during the event was generously donated to area hospitals and