Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member
Spark. Ahh, now that’s a great word. Quick, simple, to the point. And it’s versatile – noun or verb – it’s all good. And if you’re a fan of onomatopoeia (and who isn’t?), well, I think spark works well there, too.
If you attended the 11th annual Young Audiences Impact Breakfast, you heard that word a lot. First, from Stacie Sanders Evans, President and CEO of Young Audiences, whose drama teacher sparked a passion that would put her on the path to her leadership of YA. You heard it from Jaime Clough, a second-grade Baltimore City Public School teacher who taught in YA’s Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) and who has used the tools and strategies learned at SALA to transform her classroom during the school year. You even heard it from a student. High school senior Jahsol Drummond spoke about his experience developing his video and editing skills at the Center for Innovative Research in the Creative Arts (CIRCA) at UMBC in last summer’s Bloomberg Arts Internship. He shared his plans for the future as a college student (he was awarded a full scholarship to Bard College) and as a filmmaker. “My career has only just begun, and it’s already so exciting,” Jahsol beamed.
It is amazing where a spark will take you if you have the passion and determination to stoke the fire.
But, of course, the thing about the Impact Breakfast is not just the inspirational stories we hear from the presenters, nor is it solely about acknowledging the remarkable strides Young Audiences has made over the past few years in overcoming summer learning loss. These are important and wonderful things to witness, no doubt. But what truly struck me this time around was the synergy of people attending this event united by the desire to improve educational opportunities for the children in our communities.
Seated to my right was Kariz Marcel, a DJ, music producer, teaching artist, and founder of the nonprofit Innovation Echo Alliance who is seeking ways to partner with Young Audiences and other educational organizations through his music industry connections. As he explained it to me, he was hoping to establish a roster of professional recording artists who would be willing to donate a small portion of their music royalties to these organizations as an ongoing and sustainable way to raise funds for education in our local schools.
Another gentleman at our table was Lieutenant Steven Thomas, a member of the Anne Arundel County Police Crisis Intervention Team. He and his team identify youth who can be helped by, for instance, after-school programs, like the Police, Artist, and Community Engagement program (PACE), and then find ways to make these things happen. For example, when it was discovered that transportation was an issue, they partnered with the school system to provide it. That meant getting the school-approved CDL bus license so they could drive students on the county’s buses. A little spark of creativity to problem solve what might otherwise have been a deal killer. Instead, police officers are keeping local youth involved in enrichment programs.
Likewise, I got a chance to talk briefly with Dr. Stuart Levine, President and Chief Medical Officer of MedStar Harbor Hospital, who I had heard speak only a week before at the unveiling of the mural that now sits in the lobby of the hospital’s Emergency Department. This mural, which focused on how cells and viruses interact with human and animal bodies, was created by sixth-grade biology students from Brooklyn Park Middle School. The project was the result of a multi-week Young Audiences teaching artist residency in partnership with Arts Empowered Minds Initiative (AEMI). So here was yet another way that a group, which is pivotal to the lives and health of its local community, had found a way to connect with young students, perhaps sparking future collaborations?
And that is just a small sampling of the conversations I had at my table alone. As I looked across the room, I could only imagine what discussions, ideas, creative solutions, and inspirational tales were being shared elsewhere. Knowing that so many people had gathered because they have a passion to improve the educational lives of our youth, I came away from the event feeling recharged, hopeful and, yes, ready to find fresh ways to kindle the spark – in whatever myriad forms it appears – in my own life and those of others.
Indeed, there is no telling what particular spark at what precise table will catch fire and generate a lasting, positive impact.
But that’s the Impact Breakfast for you – a kaleidoscope of people who are sparking change and impacting the future for our children!