Emerson pre-K student Noah Autry, 4, and Henderson Ward Stewart fourth grader Jadin Virgil make slime with Mississippi State University women's basketball center Teaira McCowan on Tuesday during Slime Night at Emerson Family School in Starkville. Noah is the son of Sheri Johnson and Denico Autry. Jadin is the son of Gabrielle Ballard and Jasper Virgil. Photo by: Laura Daniels/Special to The Dispatch
Emerson Family School Student Carolyn Grace Cooper, 3, enjoys Slime Night at Emerson Family School in Starkville on Tuesday with her mom Camille Cooper, grandmother Vicki Cooper, far left, and Mississippi State University women's basketball center Teaira McCowan.
Photo by: Laura Daniels/Special to The Dispatch
February 20, 2019 11:08:03 AM
Teaira McCowan spent much of Tuesday evening up to her elbows in slime at Emerson Family School on Louisville Street.
It was a far different setting than "the paint" on a basketball court where the All-American senior 6-foot-7 center for the Mississippi State women's basketball team is a dominant force. Nonetheless, she seemed just as much in her element helping equip a room full of 3- to 10-year-olds with the ingredients for a gooey good time.
With precision and efficiency, McCowan moved from table-to-table, bringing Borax, shaving cream, baking soda and glue to the kids upon request. For the more adventurous slime makers, she supplied glitter and food dyes for flair. All the while, she offered the kids regular encouragements of "You got it!" and "Looking good!"
Slime Night, which McCowan -- an intern at Emerson Family School -- organized, was a hit. Probably for the first time, McCowan wasn't the biggest factor in the room. For the kids, it was all about the slime.
"I don't think they were really worried about me being here," McCowan said. "They were just worried about making slime, but I got to help them. I am sure they will share (what they learned) with their classmates or somebody else they know."
For McCowan, a professional basketball career is almost certainly in her future. Women's National Basketball Association mock draft boards consistently place her among the top five picks in April.
But long-term, McCowan wants to end up helping children and families -- whether as a classroom teacher or in some other capacity. She developed that passion, she said, talking after her games to children who had come to see her team play.
"Freshman year, when I was interacting with families after the game, it really made me feel like that's where I was supposed to be," McCowan said.
As an intern at Emerson, McCowan typically works with designing bulletin boards and helping in the adult learning center. But a casual glance at her social media one day -- specifically an instructional video on how to make slime -- gave her the idea to host Slime Night for children as one of the center's Emerson Project Care events.
Emerson hosts at least one Project Care event per month, said program manager Nakesha Weaver.
"It's pretty fun to just get away from basketball and work with all these kids," McCowan said.
Just before the official start time at 5:30 p.m., kids started to arrive en masse with their parents in tow. Grace Harrington, 3, ran in line with her mom, dad and 10-month-old brother dragging behind her.
"I'm excited to make pink glitter slime," Grace said.
Grace's parents, Zack and Hunter, said they saw an advertisement outside Grace's classroom last week for Slime Night. Tuesday night was the first Emerson Project Care event the Harringtons had been to, but they all confirmed it would not be the last.
"With Grace, when something is on her mind, she's going to talk about it at the dinner table," Zack said. "She likes to share her excitement with us. She knows it's about getting us together and having a good time."
Cynthia Mobley said she always tries to bring her three sons out for events at Emerson.
"We come out all the time," Mobley said. "It's good for us to all get together and they are all so welcoming here too."
Jaylon Mobley, 10, was no stranger to slime. He and his brother Joshua, 8, helped their youngest brother Jeremiah, 4, make slime for the first time.
"I've made slime before at home," Jaylon said. "I like making slime and making it make bubbles."
After mixing all the ingredients, Jeremiah picked up a piece of his creation.
"It's sticky!" Jeremiah said. "It's so sticky!"
Each family made one batch, learning the craft through trial-and-error and teamwork.
Grace ended her night with her glittered slime in a bag and high-fived McCowan on the way out the door. Something her dad said will resonate with her later.
"She's been to (basketball games)," Zack said. "We have a basketball goal that she plays with. We told her there was going to be a basketball player here that plays on TV, but she's just a little bit in awe. Stuff like this is cool. We're just big believers in doing things with out children."
Emerson Family Resource Center
The Family Resource Center, located in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District preschool, is a program that offers parents marriage, parenting and financial management classes. Weaver specifically works with Project Care at Emerson, which is a program funded by Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.
The goal of the program, Weaver said, is to lessen child abuse in the Starkville area. Project Care offers programs designed to increase communication, teamwork and positive relationships in the family, she added. Earlier this month, Weaver hosted a Valentine's Day "muffins for mom and donuts for dad." She said that sometimes even the small things make parents feel appreciated.
Each month, Weaver said, the participation rate continues to grow. Tuesday night's Slime Night, Weaver said, did just that. Only 13 families registered online, but more than 50 kids walked into the cafeteria to work together.
"I didn't have the heart to turn anyone away," Weaver said. "We were prepared for this."
Each family was tasked to work together to produce one product. With McCowan as the organizer, Weaver said everything went as smoothly as possible. With tables coated in slime and kids laughing in the background, Weaver could tell that this would not be the last Slime Night Emerson hosted.
"Each month we grow," Weaver said. "It went well. It's slime. I figured it would be like this. If it wasn't messy it wouldn't be slime. (McCowan) did a great job. These kids are so used to her now. Every time she walks down the hallway, she calls each one her friend."
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