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How 'Be 1 Self' art program is boosting self confidence in Northeast Ohio students: You are Not Alone series with 3News' Hollie Strano

Artist Ricky Meredith says that he knows the feelings of being left out as a kid.

CLEVELAND — In our "You Are Not Alone" mental health series we do a lot of tough, but important, stories. This one, has a more inspiring tone. 

Meet the artist using art and self confidence to improve the mental health of students in Northeast Ohio.

"What would you guys like to draw today?" artist Ricky Meredith asks as he walks around a room of students at Riverside Elementary school in Cleveland.

It's been a busy summer for him. Through his program "Be 1 Self," he's visited several different area schools to teach art classes. But that's not all the students are learning.

"I go to the school, and we get all the kids together and they're social and bond just being in a group, be encouraged and feel better about each other. That's the most important part of the setting," he explains.

Between learning about paint strokes and colors, the kids learn the mentality Meredith uses in his everyday life to boost self confidence and improve his own mental health.

"So the theme of the whole workshop is creativity plus self, equals life. So that's them as artists," he says.

That mentality is carrying Meredith through his own life. A few years ago, he lost part of his sight in a work-related accident, putting him in a difficult place. As a kid, Meredith attended special education classes, making him feel different from other kids.

"So I know how it is to go to the lunch room, and all the kids is there and you're trying to fit in," he says. "You only got a little moment of time to actually do that, and it's kind of hard to achieve that." 

Pouring his own self reflection into the kids he serves inspires Meredith right back. He's currently teaching classes of about 50 kids from first grade to juniors in high school.

"Watching the kids get together and have a social bond is the most important thing," he says. "When I get with them, I feel like a kid because I'm a big kid. It's just fun."

Meredith also teaches the same classes to adults, and was even doing colleges for a while. He hopes to create an app where the kids can showcase their work and people can browse and buy it all in one place. For now, you can follow him and inquire about classes on his site.

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Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous story on July 15, 2022.

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