My name is Amanda Sessa and I am a student at the Institute of Notre Dame (IND) in Baltimore City. I am a member of the Shalom Club, a worldwide high school organization dedicated to peace. At IND, the Shalom Club partners with local charities to raise money for them.
For as long as I can remember my father, Thomas Sessa, has been on the board of Young Audiences/Arts for Learning. So, when the Shalom Club was looking to partner with a new organization, I automatically thought of Young Audiences. When I told the other members of Shalom Club about the work Young Audiences does to bring arts experiences to Maryland students, they jumped at the opportunity to partner with them because we believe that education is a gateway to peace in the world. Additionally, IND has focused on expanding its arts programs and its use of the arts to more fully develop the education of our students. Therefore Young Audiences was a perfect partner for IND and the Shalom Club.
On April 2, 2014, IND held a fundraiser called Bread and Soup Day organized by the Shalom Club. Prior to Bread and Soup Day, Young Audiences staff members Pat Cruz and Jess Porter (who is also an alumna of IND) came to our school to educate the students about Young Audiences and its mission. The response was overwhelming. On Bread and Soup Day we sold lunches to IND students and donated all of the proceeds (approximately $400) to Young Audiences.
I am very excited that I was able to connect IND with Young Audiences, especially because both organizations are dedicated to maximizing student achievement in Baltimore City and beyond. In addition to introducing Young Audiences to IND’s 400 students and its faculty, I learned a great deal about the role that Young Audiences plays in educating Maryland’s students, especially students of limited means.
I am lucky. I have always had an arts program in my school and assumed that all other students were also exposed to the arts. Pat and Jess showed me that many students–who often could most benefit from arts programs–do not have the chance to learn with the arts in school. I saw that my participation in middle school theatre performances and IND’s Choral Performance class should not be taken for granted. These experiences have been some of the greatest educational opportunities for me but are not available to thousands of students throughout Maryland.
My teachers have used the arts, including music and dance, in so many ways. I learned the alphabet through the ABC song, danced to a song warning me about talking to strangers, and continue to use music and song to recall words in Spanish. In English class this year my teacher had us act out the plays we read so we could see the events as the author intended. When we were not reading, she would have us draw pictures of settings, characters, and symbols to depict the text in a different way. The arts make learning fun and interesting and these were some of the best assignments I was given. It saddens me that they are not available to everyone.
The Shalom Club and the IND community hopes that our donation will help fund the important work of Young Audiences. We hope that our efforts will allow Young Audiences to reach students who otherwise would never experience the power of the arts educationally or in their lives outside of the classroom. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to Young Audiences’ important work. I hope that IND and Young Audiences will continue to be partners for years to come.
Many thanks to Amanda Sessa and all the members of IND’s Shalom Club for their support of Young Audiences and increasing access to arts-in-education programs for all Maryland students!