Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Mark Creegan; Art Teacher Tries to Create Positive Atmosphere for Self-Expression

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Mark Creegan; Art Teacher Tries to Create Positive Atmosphere for Self-Expression

Article excerpt

Byline: Megan Massion

When people volunteer, they can change lives - including their own. Each week in Reason, we will highlight a volunteer's story of giving back and how that selfless act was a true revelation. The volunteer project is a collaboration among the Times-Union, the University of North Florida, the United Way of Northeast Florida and HandsOn Jacksonville.

Her body language conveyed frustration and defeat. The 16-year-old's attempts to draw 3-D letters were timid.

Every week, the small group of eight girls who lived at the Mills House Girls' Recovery Center patiently waited for volunteer and art professor Mark Creegan to arrive.a

Creeganacould see the girls through the glass window that overlooked the classroom before he entered. They were sittingaside-by-side at a long table socializing in theiraT-shirts and pajamas.a

Halfway through the art lesson,aCreegananoticed that one of the girls looked discouraged.

Although the group was chatty, the statement she made wasn't like the other excited talk.

"I suck. I can't do this."

Creegan stopped the lesson and challenged the girls to think about how having this mindset affects their self-esteem and decisions.

"Obviously, that sort of mentality would make it hard for someone to battle something like drug addiction," Creegan said.

The residential services of the Mills House Girls' Recovery Center in Jacksonville are designed to place children recovering from drug addictions in a safe and healthy environment to help them overcome the challenges they face.

Art is encouraged at the Mills House because it is a positive outlet for the girls to express themselves in a creative way.

"[Art] allows people to slow down and that in itself is therapeutic," Creegan said.

In addition to his volunteer work at Mills House and Hope at Hands at the Boys Recovery Center, Creeganahas been a professor for about 10 years and currently teaches various art courses full time at Florida State College at Jacksonville. …

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