Sherman Avenue first graders put artistic skills to work in designing logo

Published 7:44 pm Saturday, December 9, 2017

First grade students at Sherman Avenue Elementary School put their artistic skills to good use recently when they participated in a contest to design a logo for the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students.

The “I Can Fly” Butterfly contest was sponsored by the Southwest Mississippi Center for Culture at Learning at Alcorn State University. Both, along with Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, are partners in the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students, the brainchild of Dr. Chris Gilmer, executive director of the Southwest Mississippi Center for Culture and Learning.

“As a first-generation student myself, when I started teaching 20 years ago at Tougaloo is when I first had a dream of helping underserved students,” Gilmer said. “As my career progressed, I saw there were lots of groups that helded some underserved students, like those based on race or gender or sexual orientation. But there were none that considered all the things that underserved students have in common. For instance, what do first generation poor students have in common with African American women students? Then, look for common solutions for those issues.”

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Gilmer, last year while working at Adams State University, put together the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students think tank. He has since traveled much of the country and spoke at numerous conferences about the NIH-US and garnered lots of interest from others.

The second think tank is set for Feb. 11-13 at Alcorn State University and will be cohosted by the Southwest Mississippi Center for Culture and Learning and the Vicksburg Warren School District.

“We have lots of small pilot projects under way here in Vicksburg and we have about 40 partners from all across the country working with us. They will be coming together here in February and of the small projects, those that work out, we will take them nationally,” Gilmer said.

The logo will be a symbol of a butterfly, which Gilmer said represents metamorphosis.

“A butterfly represents evolution and forward momentum and that’s what we want to share with children. They can fly, regardless from where they start, regardless of what challenges they have to overcome, they have the ability to go to college and pursue their dreams,” he said.

The school, classrooms participating and the winner will share about $1,100 worth of prizes.

Readers can vote on which of the butterfly creations on this page they think should become the logo for the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students by going to the group’s Facebook page or to its website,

“At our first think tank, we drafted a set of declarations and one of them is, you don’t get to choose where you start in life, but you do get to choose where you finish. Education is a right of everyone in this country and not a privilege for the privileged,” Gilmer said.