By Emily Radler, Teen Council member
On November 4, Teen Council hosted its second CLAIM Conference in Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre. The Conference was part of the claimyourARTS ("CLAIM") initiative, which allows teens to speak out about the importance of arts in education. The CLAIM Conference gives dozens of Bay Area teens, including myself, a chance to raise our voices for the arts.
The conference started off with a teen-generated slideshow featuring facts and figures reminding us why arts in schools are a must, not a maybe. From the slideshow as well as events later in the day, we learned that student involvement in the arts is linked to higher academic performance, increased standardized test scores, greater involvement in community service, and lower dropout rates. These facts, among many others, were things I didn't know until I participated with my team, the Ferocious Watermelons, in a series of competitive CLAIM games. The games taught us that it is important to act fast when it comes to standing up for our arts, and we learned how to support our position with factual information.
As we all gathered back in the Roda, it was time for the main event. Towards the end of the Conference, we all had the opportunity to put our newly acquired advocacy skills to the test by pitching arguments to support the arts. Our task was to review a case study of a specific arts-related issue, and then put together and present a pro-arts pitch for three lovely judges. After this heated battle, each team chose a member to participate in the final round on the Roda Stage. It was amazing to stand on the stage where so many famous actors have once stood to proclaim our love for the arts. Six Teen Council members gave incredibly compelling arguments, some of which included moving personal anecdotes, specific convincing facts, and some that had the double threat combination of the two. Each participate received constructive feedback from the judges and encouraging applause from everyone in the room.
If I had to pinpoint one thing I "claimed" after the conference (besides the rad CLAIM swag, of course) it would have to be my own unique sense of empowerment. Armed with facts, eloquent speaking techniques, and a whole new group of motivating peers, I feel more ready than ever to continue to ensuring the arts play an active role in every teen's education. I have been inspired to spread the word of this initiative as less and less money is being allocated to arts in education. As the new co-chair of the CLAIM Committee, along with Samuel Shain, I hope to be able to reach out to teens and adults locally and across the nation who find themselves as troubled about this unacceptable decline as I do. In the future our committee hopes to host more events highlighting the importance of keeping the arts in our schools, so you can be sure this won't be the last you hear from us!
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