CONYERS -- Just before former President Jimmy Carter was admitted to an Ohio hospital earlier this week, two Rockdale County students had a chance to meet the nation's 39th president.
Last Saturday, two Davis Middle School students and two of their teachers attended the 14th annual Peanut Festival in Plains after the students placed first in their grade levels for the Plains, Peanuts and a President Art Contest sponsored by the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site Education Program and the Peanut Institute.
Sixth-grader Lauren Holmes and eighth-grader Tony Purnell both won this year's contest, which students in kindergarten through 12th grade are invited to enter each year. Each September, students create postcard-sized art about Plains, peanuts and/or the former president, also a former peanut farmer.
"It is so amazing that we had two first-place winners for their grade levels when there were over 20,000 entries across the state," said Katy King, art teacher at Davis Middle School.
King traveled with the two students and fellow DMS teacher Darlen Huff to Plains to receive their certificates from Carter at an awards program at the Plains Depot on Main Street during the festival. They also participated in the parade, visited arts and crafts vendors and enjoyed live entertainment.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am glad to have accomplished such a great thing," Purnell said. "I had a great time and am very proud of myself."
The Conyers group joined other students and teachers from all around the state to enjoy the festival and meet Carter, who also autographed books for students.
"It was quite interesting," Holmes said. "I will probably never get to do something like it again. President Jimmy Carter wasn't anything how I expected -- he was an ordinary person. I'm proud of myself. Without winning (the contest), I probably never would have had the opportunity to meet President Jimmy Carter or go to Plains, Ga."
The first-, second- and third-place winners for the statewide art contest will be on exhibit at Plains High School Museum until January 2011. They also are available for viewing online at www.jimmycarter.info/spotlight_1.html.