By: Michael Brix, Executive Director
Last night, I had the pleasure of sitting with a group of our key staff members. Our key staff members are, by and large, young artists with a passion for young people. They are seasonal and part-time, but 10 of them came out to make our company better. We were led by 2 board members, one of which a founding member of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts and the other a founding board member. Together we talked for 3 hours about our work, our commitment to diversity and how to describe that commitment, as well as ways to make our programs stronger for both staff and kids.
In the middle of their discussion, I thought back to a conversation I had with a Summer Camp parent a few weeks ago at the Mt. Airy Village Fair. Her child had been a part of Imagination Camp in the past, and this year was due to move up to our middle school Theatre Camp. She wound up not registering and sending her child because their friend couldn’t sign up for a multi-week program and the child wanted to attend with their friend.
Sidenote: If you’re not familiar with our programs, our K-4th grade Imagination Camp is offered in week-long sessions. Our middle school Theatre Camp is 2 or 3 week-long sessions.
Like many parents, she inquired as to why we require multi-week sessions for middle schoolers and I gave a quick answer: Well, we’re not child care.
I don’t have anything against good quality child care and I typically don’t like defining us by what we are not, but I like how clear and unequivocal the statement is. We have worked for close to 20 years on developing a pedagogy and praxis for using the arts to empower children and youth. (We even named it: “Tribe Centered Learning.”)
Through this pedagogy, we program our day, our week, and our multi-week sessions to be age-appropriate, challenging, arts-driven explorations of community, imagination, and equality. This is not simply child care.
We work, not only to give these youth a voice, but to train them to use their voice, tell their stories, and find their power. We work so that young people who come to us for a few weeks in the summer will grow together, learn about how they fit into community, and have agency to change the world around them.
We hope, that by requiring them to join us for multiple weeks in the summer, they will leave hungry to continue with us year-round; that the relationships they build with each other and our amazing staff compels them to join Winter Sort of Thing, or After School Group, and (eventually) Shadow Company. We are seeking life-long connections and so we are not just child care.
We make sure no child is left behind because they can’t afford it. This summer, it was to the tune of $100,000 in “camperships.” It’s also why we ask families who can afford it, to help us in our mission by pitching in financially so we can keep our population economically diverse.
I am making an open invitation to you, no matter if you got here because you are an internet browser, or Facebook story clicker, or blog junkie: JOIN US! Join us by making a contribution today. Our program model needs your assistance to make it work for all youth. A gift of $315 can give one child a week of programming. Can you help us continue in our mission today?
And when someone asks why you donated to the kids at Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, you can say it’s because “they are more than just child care.”
Thanks so much!