Tasked with the trick of working with the youngest campers, Kerry Zasoski harnessed the skills which she learned while working at New Summit School in Jackson. Early education requires loving, patient interaction, as well as planning interesting & thought-provoking lessons for kids from ages 3 to 6. Sensory play & color awareness were two ways which Kerry & her co-counselor Meriwether were able to engage their students. For example, her class experimented with different kinds of doughs made of various kitchen items like baking soda, flour, and salt. The kids learned about primary colors, mixing colors, and how to make different forms on command. On the first day of Camp, the kids became the teachers of a class where they taught Meri and Keri (as they were lovingly called) Mayan vocabulary by drawing words on small pieces of paper. These papers were eventually turned into a Mayan/ Spanish dictionary and displayed at The Living Museum. The students learned about layers, by painting fabric using three different techniques over the course of a week. For The Living Museum, this colorful fabric was used to build a reading tipi. She loves the kids so much and formed unshakeable bonds with them and their parents despite the language barrier that seemed to pop up so often. Kerry received her B.A. from Ole Miss in 2012 in Studio Art
Allie Jordan, CoFounder & Marketing Director
In the summer of 2013, Mandi and Allie made the brutal bike ride under the Yucatecan sun from Kaxil Kiuic to Yaxhachen, and it was then that Allie fell in love with the community. In early 2015, Allie began building a formal set of visual records of the community through photography and videography. During the community’s first-ever visit of Kaxil Kiuic, an official viewing of the these videos induced excitement from the crowd of children, mothers, aunts; and all the while reinforced Allie’s ideas of the power of media and representation. Throughout the six weeks of Camp Ko’ox, Allie photographed portraits of 150 campers and community volunteers, which eventually culminated in the “Somos Yaxhachen” photo gallery at the KB Museo en Vivo. At the end of the living museum celebration, campers and their families were invited to take their photos to hang in their own homes. As each person removed his or her photo from the larger body, a realization was made. Through Ko’ox Boon we are each an important part of a whole. Additionally, Allie focused on aiding counselors Liz and Sara in cultivating photographers out of children that had previously never used a camera, culminating in a grassroots media process for the documentation of Camp Ko’ox 2015. Allie Jordan is a photographer living in Mérida, Yucatán who is currently serving as the International Communications Liaison for Millsaps College, a position she created for the college two years ago. She received her B.A. in communication studies from Millsaps College in 2013.
As a counselor for the youngest age group, Meriweather, partnered with Kerry Zasoski, sought to find a balance between activities that would captivate the littlest, yet work towards larger goals and values. Some reoccurring themes in her work with the children revolved around making best use of artistic space and understanding the importance of layers and details in creating. Meriweather loved working with the youngest and being able to observe that uninhibited, creative spirit that they so often exemplified. Though each day brought a new adventure, a favorite activity of Meriweather’s was one that involved a journey through all that we could make with salt dough. We began by challenging students to form basic shapes that gradually increased in difficulty as we progressed. Not only was there intentional layering and building upon previously learned skills, this allowed for a solid base for the students to experiment on their own account at the culmination of the activity. Meriweather saw engagement at an all-time high and loved witnessing excitement and eagerness as we worked our way through the various ways to create with circles, stars, hearts and more! Ultimately, Meriweather felt every moment of camp to be special due to the ways that working with multiple forms of expression helped unify and provide a platform for interaction on deeper levels--everyone brought together for the same reason. Meriweather received her B.A. in Anthropology from Millsaps College in May 2015.
Samantha Ledbetter, Artist in Residence
Working closely with Merida-based artist Orlando Domínguez and rotating small groups of children, Samantha produced six murals that further revived the interior, exterior, and surrounding walls of the renovated Casa YAXHA. These murals are a cultural celebration fully realized through collaboration. In Samantha’s favorite mural, Dona Wilma Us May painted deer, birds, snakes, and flowers that children and counselors alike elaborated upon with great expanses of colors and patterns. Other murals were born out of chaos. What began with a base drawing of masking tape allowed eager students to paint and splatter as they so wildly desired. Upon peeling the tape, an intended figure remains, lending itself to the addition of more deliberate details. Painting is at once action and observable thing. The containment of chaos on walls within geometric snakes and turkeys reminds us of our own actions. We hurl and smear pigments on walls, on paper, on each other, our human geometry alive with joy. Samantha is an artist working in Jackson, Mississippi. She received her B.A. in Studio Art from Millsaps College in 2012 & created her own body of new paintings during her residency in Yucatan.
Mandi Strickland, CoFounder & Executive Director
Originally entranced by the play of language & the pitter-patter of tiny, bare feet, Mandi began developing relationships with children & community members in Yaxhachen over five years ago. In 2015, she worked with community advisors to oversee the renovation of the Comisaria Ejidal into the community center, Casa YAXHA. These projects could not have happened without the diligent and compassionate help of Don Alberto Ruiz Miis, Don Oliberto, Don Ananias Us May, Manuel, and Dona Wilma Us May. Working with these community leaders, Ko’ox Boon facilitates bi-directional, creative discourse between volunteers, students, families & the community as a whole. Mandi is a writer from Yazoo City, Mississippi. She received her B.A. in Anthropology from Millsaps College in 2012 & her M.A. in English from University of Louisville in 2014.
Parker is an artist and community organizer from New Orleans, Louisiana, who, seeing the light in the eyes of his friends, knew that his only reasonable course of action was to book it to Yucatan, Mexico with all due haste. Under the tutelage of community partner Don Oliberto, and with the constant aid of friends in the community, Parker began the design and construction of a community garden. Sourcing knowledge of important herbs and other plants from town elders and sourcing plants from townspeople and camp goers, all in the goal of furthering public health and continuing the tradition of symbiotic relationships with local fauna. The garden was constructed using native materials, namely limestone and red earth, and will be supplemented with locally sourced compost. The design of the garden features raised, stone beds arranged in a circular patterns with walkways between the circles. The space has proven to be a natural gathering place. Parker also organized the planting of an orchard of fruit bearing and medicinal trees, donated by Kaxil Kiuic. These trees are a handpicked selection of Ciricote, Zapote, Ka’at (maya chocolate), and Habim, and two Yaxche or Ceiba trees, numbering 18 trees in total.
Working as a whole with the artist Samantha Ledbetter and the different groups of children of the community, Orlando worked to produce a total of 6 murals, located in different places both in the interior and in the exterior of the Casa Yaxha. Throughout the mural-making process, Orlando focused on using different technologies and methods of work. The principal material used was acrylic paint on concrete walls, and adhesive tape to form shapes, which the children would choose colors to fill in. After the murals were finished, a base of white glue mixed with water was applied so that they might endure the rain and the solar light, postponing its wear. His favorite mural is adjacent to the garden of the house, renowned "The turkey party,“ for its multiple forms and attractive and radiant colors. Orlando currently pursues a degree in visual arts at the University of Yucatan in Merida.
In Yaxhachen, Alexandra spent her time going on nature walks with the children, and infusing critical thought into play as her campers explored the world. Her favorite moment of camp was helping kids realize that their environment offers different perspectives, like when they turned flowers into temporary tattoos or learned about turning trash to pieces of installation art. (In the end, there’s nothing more important than inventing new ways to play.) She’s passionate about poetry and giving the young women of Yaxhachen a voice, and so is looking forward to her continuing her on-going collaboration with several Yaxhachen teenagers and later publishing them in the Millsaps literary journal “The Stylus” and starting a pen pal club with Yaxhachen kids and Jupiter, Florida students. She is a senior Communications/Philosophy student at Millsaps College.