“Expression of a Brave Heart,” has been created for people with disabilities, allowing them the chance to express themselves through art, music and dance. It has also become an outlet for Auburn students to show their concern for those in need.
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Brave Hearts is held every other Monday at the Opelika Sportsplex and is open to anyone in the community. It is a fine arts program that was started by Angie Burque, an Auburn social work professor and director. Burque thought it would be a great way for special needs teens and young adults to express themselves artistically where they might not have the opportunity elsewhere.
Elizabeth Stewart, a senior in social work, is committed to this organization. She started volunteering with Brave Hearts last semester and has planned to continue to volunteer until she graduates.
Stewart became involved because Brave Hearts counted for her service learning in one of her classes. She continues to stay connected to this rewarding experience because she has grown attached to the teens and has lots of fun spending time with them.
The program has a “coach” system allowing each special needs teen and young adult a consistent person each week. The volunteers are matched up to teens based on their previous experience with the special needs community. They have the opportunity to choose two 30-minute classes of art, music, or dance.
“At each session we do a project with them and it allows them to express their creativity in ways they would not be able to normally,” said Stewart.
Stewart’s most memorable moment at Brave Hearts was when she recognized a girl that she knew from her hometown.
“I use to help with the Special Olympics in Birmingham (Ala.) each year and this one girl that I had became close to moved away,” said Stewart. “When I started doing Brave Hearts I noticed she was involved and was able to reconnect with her and her family.”
Stewart recommends that everyone should become involved in Brave Hearts. It is not time consuming and you don’t need to have any qualifications or experience.
Upon graduation in July, Stewart plans to be a social worker in Birmingham at the Children’s Hospital.
“You come away with new relationships you wouldn’t think you would find in college,” said Stewart. “I look forward to see the teens every other week knowing they always have smiles on their faces.”