Local News

Fayetteville arts festival engages students with special needs

Posted April 29, 2016 12:43 p.m. EDT

Devon Forman of Spring Lake Middle School has been practicing all year for his chance to perform on the big stage.

His dance on Friday to "Hey Pachuco" knocked the crowd off its feet.

About 2,000 students with special needs, along with their teachers and parents, packed the Crown Agri-Expo Center for the 35th annual Very Special Arts Festival in Cumberland County.

"It's great. It gets them out," said David Gilmore, a parent of one of the children in the show. "They get around. They can express themselves without anybody judging them. They all come and do their thing."

For some of the children, the show helps them connect to other people and learn.

"Because my kids especially are very visual learners," said teacher Perri Pinherio. "They're deaf and hard of hearing. So, they're very visual learners. They love music—it helps stimulate them, so anytime we can incorporate the arts into, our kids are fully engaged."

In addition to performing arts, students had hands-on opportunities to showcase visual arts, too.

"When you look at their projects, you not only see art, you see love, and you see the great relationship between the teachers and the kids," said Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till. "It's just beautiful, and this is just a great celebration."