Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jason's remarks at the 2010 Annual Campaign

Thank you Emely. [I followed Emely]

What Emely is too modest to tell you, is that on top of all of the amazing work she has done here starting new programs, events, and making amazing artwork, she has been accepted to nearly every college she has applied to - with scholarship offers from Hampshire, Salem, Guilford and URI!

Thank you for coming tonight. I want to start with some acknowledgments. --- I ask that you hold your applause until I’m done.

  • The young people that were here are from STAB, our studio team advisory board. This group of incredible young leaders mentor their peers, organize events, reach out to the public and much more. I hope you had a chance to talk one of them tonight.
  • Our artist mentors. These amazing volunteers make an incredible commitment to our youth. They practice the most sophisticated and transformative kind of education, teaching in partnership WITH young people not TO them.
  • This organization is actually led by an incredible team that is the staff here. They have saved me more times than I can count. Sarah, Tamara, Jesse, Emmy, Kedrin and our newest staff member, Dan. And our studio assistants, Michelle and Shannon.
  • Our board of directors. These community leaders balance multiple commitments and voluntarily take full responsibility for our work and survival. I particularly want to acknowledge our chair, Myrth York.
  • Our event committee has spent the last two months planning this night. Mike, Sally, Rebecca, Zach and Derek.
  • Our silent auction team, Tamara, Holly and Priscilla!
  • All the volunteers that transformed our studio into the White House!

And now let’s say thank you to them all with a big round of applause.

Please look at the program for our event sponsors, these generous businesses keep our fundraising costs low-this means more of your donations go directly to young people.Citizens Bank, Neighborhood Health Plan of RI and GTECH have been very generous sponsors of this event and New Urban Arts.

We've had a lot of visitors recently. Funders, public servants, researchers, people trying to learn what makes this place “tick.” They will usually sit down with a group of young people here and ask them what is significant to them about this place. And even though we don't tell young people what to say, there is incredible similarity across what I hear.

One young woman said something last week that summed it up really well. She said:

“My sense of....what's possible...has changed here...

This is one of the only places in my life where I'm told that things ARE possible, NOT impossible.”

We're talking a lot as a nation about education inequality. Some of our most passionate and talented minds are addressing this persistent problem. What do we do?

Longer school days? Longer school years?

More testing? Less testing? Better testing?

Uniforms, standard curriculums?

There are NO easy answers.

But what we do know is this: a young person's sense of what's possible for their lives, communities and their world MUST be our foundation.

Education inequality, at its core is about more than just being denied access to money and material resources (though they are important, we can always use more here..!), ultimately it is about who is encouraged to believe what is possible and who isn't.

There may be no greater injustice that we can inflict on another human than to silence their sense of possibility. But we systemically do it every single day. We do it by cutting our arts programs to the bone, by denying young people a say in how they learn, in the countless subtle and not so subtle messages that tell young people what they can and cant do.

I'm pretty sure that somewhere along the way in your life, someone or someone’s told you that things were possible. You took those first steps and risked what one of our past artist mentors calls “glorious failure.”

This is what New Urban Arts does for over hundreds of young people every year. This is the change you're making happen.

We've gotten some great recognition in the last year and it's been really exciting. We have the opportunity to share what we've been doing with new communities, and go out and learn from some other amazing folks across the nation and even the world.

But it doesn't change the fact that we still need your help now, and year in and year out to keep these doors open.

Ten years ago, we launched our first annual campaign so we could effectively fight for “the possible” for our youth, independent of the changing whims and agendas of big institutions and the powers that be.

We still need your help.

If you've already given THANK YOU (feel free to give again!)

To make a donation to our annual campaign please complete donation card and leave it in our donation box. If you don’t have your cc or your checkbook, we will gladly take a pledge and follow up with you.

Please, lets keep telling young people that what they dream is possible.

Thank you.


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