UC Clermont English Professor Dr. Gregory Sojka Gives Back to Clermont County Through Fine Arts Initiative

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This past summer, the Boys & Girls Club of Clermont County held a special weekly class for its high school-aged students. The theme last summer was dance, and the class was taught by a UC Clermont student thanks to funding provided by Dr. Gregory Sojka, who has funded such a class each summer in the hopes that students at the Boys & Girls Club will have the opportunity to enrich their education through the fine arts.

Dr. Sojka’s Fine Arts Initiative originated two years ago during his time as a community advisory board member of the Boys & Girls Club of Clermont County, who told him that fine arts were a program they’d like to incorporate into their club.

Both Dr. Sojka and his wife (Dr. Jane Sojka, Marketing Professor UC Lindner College of Business) are career educators, and thus they are confident of the value these art programs have because of the engaging, hands-on approach they provide.

“As an outcome, we hope that children may develop a life-long appreciation and love for the arts which will enrich their lives regardless of their professions,” Dr. Sojka said in an interview on behalf of both himself and his wife.

This summer, a six-week painting class was taught by former UC Clermont student Haley Dennison. Throughout the weeks, she taught the teens at the Boys & Girls Club about the lives of classic and modern artists, the stylistic techniques employed by each artist, and how to put the techniques into practice. Students started and completed an art project each week to help them solidify the concepts they learned that day. Most weeks, the students worked with acrylic paint and canvas, but other projects included watercolor postcards, collage elements, and gel mediums to create various textures on a project.

Post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, Dutch artist Piet Mondrian—well known for his contributions to the De Stijl movement and his coining of the term “neoplasticism” to define his non-representational style—and modern Instagram artist Annette Labedzki (renowned for her mesmerizing paint-mixing videos and abstract work) are just a few of the artists that were discussed throughout the art class.

The willingness of the Boys & Girls Club to host student teachers, and the generosity of Dr. Gregory Sojka to provide the necessary materials, make such a powerful experience possible. Not only do the classes taught by UC Clermont’s students each summer expose kids at the Boys & Girls Club to a variety of fine arts concepts, but they provide students the chance to put their knowledge toward a good cause and gain experience teaching. The opportunity also allows college students to make connections at the Boys & Girls Club and network with the staff, which could lead to future undertakings at the organization.

“I’ve taken the painting classes offered at UC Clermont,” Haley said, “and this art class was a phenomenal way to put the techniques I learned to use while impacting the lives of kids in the New Richmond area.”

Dr. Sojka has revealed that in preparation for next summer, they are seeking out a student from one of Clermont’s Spanish classes to teach the basics of the language to teens at the Boys & Girls Club.

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About Author

Haley is a senior in high school at UC Clermont. She is a biochemistry major and plans on using her love of writing to help her achieve her goals. She enjoys reading, painting, listening to and playing classical music, and drinking coffee.

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