As she wraps up her first Gateway arts enrichment program, Melissa English-Gibbs happily described her musical instrument work this summer.

Her favorites are guitar and keyboard, and Melissa will join dozens of kids in third through fifth grade at a showcase event at Kennedy Middle School on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Melissa is a rising third-grader at Redcliffe Elementary School in Beech Island.

“It’s fun to be here,” Melissa said. “I’m really excited about the pieces we’re going to do. I’ve made a lot of new friends.”

Gateway has been an iconic summer arts program for about 25 years – offering a wide range of opportunities for students in third through 12th grade. The older students will participate in their own showcase program on Thursday, July 10, at 7 p.m.

The events will feature instrumental and vocal music, dance and drama. Simultaneously, student artwork will be on display in the school cafeteria.

Meredith Leopard, a Gateway veteran in her first year as director, is delighted the younger children are presenting a program with a South Carolina theme.

“It’s all music and drama,” said music instructor Steve Cheek, an Augusta teacher. “We’ll highlight the musicians like Chubby Checker, Josh Turner and James Brown. It’s really about focusing on the beauty of South Carolina and all the benefits that come out of it.”

Ceci Thomas, a rising sixth-grader at North Augusta Middle School, likes the recorder, but enjoys vocals, too.

“My favorite song (at showcase) will be Darius Rucker’s ‘Wagon Wheel,’ but I love all the songs,” she said.

For the song “Carolina Sunshine, Carolina Rain,” Leopard has created a PowerPoint that will display scenes of South Carolina landscapes.

Trey Newton, headed to Paul Knox Middle School this fall, is a drama enthusiast and is looking forward to appearing in an intriguing play. The production will depict the crowd at a Clemson-Carolina football game to demonstrate how important the sport is to the state.

As it turns out, South Carolina will win the game, “but I prefer Clemson,” Trey said.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.