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The Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts awarded Cheryl Carvajal with the 2021 Art Educator of the Year award at the Gallery Opening Reception on June 14.

Carvajal began teaching at the Turner Center in 2019, where she was instrumental in helping the Turner Center launch a new writing program for youth ages 11-18. The Young Writers League (YoWL) was designed to inspire and guide young writers and encourage them toward authorship.

Initially, Carvajal taught students at the Turner Center on Saturdays. In early 2020, Carvajal suggested an online version of the program to reach more youth who could not physically meet at the Center. The timely transition adequately prepared Carvajal and the Turner Center to continue serving the youth after the COVID pandemic ceased all personal interactions. Several dozen students across city, county and private schools continue to access the program digitally.

The Turner Center received a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts in July 2020 to fund the YoWL program and a community-wide “The Art of Writing” contest for the youth. Carvajal was instrumental in the success of the contest through her communication with students via the app. The inaugural contest successfully garnished more than 60 entries, of which the winning entries will appear in an anthology available in the Turner Center Gift Shop in July.

“Cheryl has been the key player in the success of the YoWL program,” said Turner Center Executive Director Sementha Mathews. “She read each entry, coordinated the judging process, and helped prepare the manuscript for the publication of the anthology. The Turner Center is extremely proud to work alongside this talented local author in our efforts to reach and inspire youth people across our community through the written word.”

In addition to the Turner Center and the Georgia Council for the Arts, other sponsors of the program and “The Art of Writing Contest” are Guardian Bank, the Valdosta United Way and Snake Nation Press.

Carvajal is the author and editor of several books and is an English and Humanities instructor at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College. She is the wife of Valdosta State University President Dr. Richard Carvajal and is the mother to their two children, Crystal and Brandon.

For more information about YoWL or other art education programs at the Turner Center, visit or call 229.247.ARTS (2787).

(pictured l to r) Turner Center Art Education Administrator Harlee Webb; award recipient author Cheryl Carvajal; Turner Center Executive Director Sementha Mathews