U.T.A.M. (Unity Through Art & Music)

A Peacemaking Project by Lauren P.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Often times, music and art programs are the first programs cut from schools due to low funding and participation. These types of programs are often the ones that bring together students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. By encouraging students to continue involvement or become involved in these types of programs, we can convince school districts to keep funding them. Furthermore, students gain the opportunity to express themselves and their emotions in a method that unifies the entire student body.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of a lack of school-based art and music programs for inner-city youth
we will address the root causes of funding and students exposure to local programs
by hosting two events that will be funded by this grant. These events will allow students to be creative through self-expression. These events will also expose them to cost-effective local programs that promote a love for the arts.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • Expose high school students to new art experiences
  • Expose high school students to new music experiences
  • Teach high school students the importance of self expression
  • Teach high school students the importance of unity
  • Teach high school students the importance of diversity

We will increase my / our compassion by...

Showing our appreciation of people's diversity, self-expression, and the arts.

How will you show courage?

By advocating for music and arts programs that are often taken for granted.

How will you collaborate with others?

By working with student leaders, faculty, and parents from local high schools.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

By the comments and reviews from the students that participate in our project.

Key Steps

  • Planning meetings with team members (3)
  • Gain a teacher's approval to host events after school
  • Host 1st Event
  • Hold meeting about success of 1st event
  • Host 2nd Event
  • Set up for and hold sign-ups for events

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

As the team reflected on why their peer’s art programs don’t receive as much funding as other programs at their school, they came across even more injustice. They discovered that their school’s other student-led programs are also severely under supported. These programs often have to pay membership fees, competitions fees, transportation fees, etc. A few student-athletes on our team also pointed out that their soccer teammates feel like they are quite privileged in terms of the support that they receive. They stated that they weren't required to pay for uniforms, equipment, transportation to games, nor snacks. We came to the conclusion that there are two possible solutions to the injustice that their school’s art programs are experiencing. The first is that they must petition for school and school district leaders to re-distribution funding more fairly. The second solution was that the students in more funded programs should acknowledge their privilege and show support for under-supported programs at their school. Just as the stadiums are packed with supporters of their school’s football team, the students believe that their concert halls should be packed with supports for their school’s musicals.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

The soccer coach that helped our team complete our project was very thankful that we allowed him to be apart of this project. He stated that he had seen a drastic change in how his athletes treated each other and how they carried themselves. He also stated that they were closer than ever before, and he was truly proud of them for being involved in a project that benefitted others in the school community. This was great feedback to hear from someone who joined our project mid-way and still saw tremendous growth. The students themselves expressed that they had more respect for their peers in their school’s drama department. Prior to attending workshops with these students, our team admitted they underestimated how much work was required to put on a successful show. The students who taught our group about theatre and music also expressed how proud they felt that their peers had taken an interest in their work. They were so thankful for the support that they received from our group. It is truly amazing how expressing a genuine interest in another person’s passions can build mutual respect and appreciation.

How many people were impacted by your project?

55

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

This is a sum of the initial group of students who wanted to learn more about the world of theatre (20) and the group of students that taught them a great deal about their own experiences in the field (35+). The reason that both these groups were positively impacted by this project is that the first group gained new knowledge and the second group gained much-needed support from their peers.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

My team attended workshops that they planned in collaboration with their school’s theatre department. They also attended their school’s opening night of the musical performed by their peers. My team was also made up of students who are already impacted by this injustice because a lot of the orchestra players' events are not well supported. I think that the conversations that the team had among themselves helped one another learned of how this injustice affects their friends and peers on a day to day basis.

What did your team learn?

I think the most important lesson that our team learned is that through supporting their peer’s aspirations, they could ensure success in their own goals. This is an important lesson that I feel is lost in today’s society. Another powerful lesson that our group learned is that others may experience the same injustice as you do and that they may deal with it in a different way. The students in the theatre department, for example, make up for their lack of funding with a strong parent-led booster organization that fundraises on their behalf. The orchestra students, who also don’t receive much funding, go door-to-door selling candles every fall semester. Beyond these general lessons, the students learned a great deal about all the skills that are required for the different musical roles. Some of them learned how to read music, how to memorize lines and choreography, and stage-hand skills. Through our re-direction of our project, the students also learned how to create a project proposal, timeline, and budget. Lastly, the students learned of new ways that they and their peers can support each others’ art-related programs in the future.

What challenges did your team overcome?

A majority of our team were soccer players or orchestra members, so we had a rather difficult time scheduling meetings that met everyone’s schedule. I also attend university a few hours away, and I quickly learned how hard it is to lead a project via phone-calls and emails. Despite this, my team never lost motivation for this project; which is a huge reason why we were so successful. Another challenge that we experienced was that the direction that I initially envisioned this project would take was slightly different than what the other team members had in mind. This major conflict was concerning what the students wanted to gain out of this project. They wanted knowledge and skills that they felt could carry them through high school and college. Though I thought 3-D art projects or projects with physical deliverables were best, the students weren’t too keen on this area and instead wanted to venture into the realm of theatre. Following several discussions, and a re-vamped mission plan, we were able to alter our project to the students’ liking.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

I definitely had to delegate a lot of tasks to the other members of my team due to the fact that I attend school a few hours away from them. Due to our early on friction regarding what the students wanted to gain out of this project, I let the group re-design the project to better fit their needs. I choose one team member to act as a correspondent for the group of students. She was in charge of relaying the group’s desires, decisions, and concerns to myself and our other team leaders. I also selected a team of parents to make the purchases for the students and to help chaperone their meetings and excursions. This team of parents also included the school’s soccer coach because after hearing of our project he was very eager to be involved. Some of our team members are on the Superintendent’s Advisory Boards and have presented ideas to the School District regarding how they can enhance the support of underserved programs in our team’s school district. They will continue to voice support and solutions for those that can’t help do it themselves. Furthermore, some of the students have found related issues in their community. They plan to apply for grants to support solutions for these related issues.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

I would encourage people to not be afraid of taking on such a project. The planning and execution process is relatively simple. Peace First does a great job of walking project leaders through the process. The Peace First team also provides imaginative ideas and suggestions for your project. My other piece of advice is that change is just like a wave in the ocean; it begins with a single ripple. You may not believe that you are causing an impact, but just as waves grow so does your impact.

Our Updates:

Opening Night

Lauren P. 6 May 2018 16:10 After attending educational workshops hosted by the school's drama department, the group was able to see the final product; opening night of their final musical of the season!

Comments:

Amani A.
14 June 2018 14:16

Dear Lauren,

Congratulations to you and your team on finishing your peacemaking project, well done!

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your work during the project implementation and what you have learned so far! I am on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share your work.

I would like to provide you with some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future: overall, I really enjoyed reading your reflection! I appreciate that your team is a group of students who are already impacted by this injustice, this was a powerful point and start for your project. Creating positive change needs people who believe in the change that you want to see! Also, I was amazed by the number of lessons learned and skills that your team gained as a result of implementing this project. You showed a high level of leadership and flexibility when you delegated the tasks between the team and gave them the space to re-design the project to better fit their needs

Would love to learn more about your next steps of the project.

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!

Amani
 

Kelsey T.
12 February 2018 13:53

Hi Lauren -- glad you are thinking so strategically, and seeing your conversation with Fish below, it sounds like you have started to think through ideas on how to capture data. Let us know how we can help and best of luck as your project continues to evolve!  

Fish S.
12 February 2018 10:31

Hi Lauren -- these are great things to measure. I would encourage you to collect data if you can, even informally: it will be really helpful for you as you try to improve your program, expand it to other schools, or seek funding! And the questions you're asking will also be helpful to those interested in advocating for better access to art and music programs on a broader scale :)  

Lauren P.
9 February 2018 16:59

Kelsey, thank you! We are really excited about this project and about the support we have behind us. You are correct, indicators are crucial in terms of evaluating our success. We will work hard to fully define these indicators of success.  

Lauren P.
9 February 2018 16:56

Fish,
That is great insight. They are definitely the type of students that are interested in learning something new. We are interested in understanding what these students believe their current access to art and music programs are currently. After our project, we hope to hear that students feel like they know more about how they can access the programs that are available to them. Lastly, we want to know what opportunities students feel like are missing. I proposed having free-response pre and post surveys after our events, but we are still debating on if this is the route we want to take.  

Kelsey T.
8 February 2018 15:59

Hi Lauren! Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below

Strengths:
This is a wonderful project -- I love that you are both addressing a short term need by creating engaging art opportunities for students without access to art and music programs, and trying to address the root causes by encouraging participation and looking to convince districts to fund arts programs. It is great that you're planning on collaborating with students, faculty and parents-- I wonder if there is a way to also involve administrators and other decision makers in some way to make them more amenable to your long term goals. I think it is really interesting that you have identified that low participation in arts programs is one of the reasons they are de-funded -- this shows you have considered the perspective of the school districts who have to make difficult decisions, and that understanding might help you explore collaborating with decision makers. Finally, it is great that you included a step in between the two events to consider the success of the first event and plan for the second -- it is so important to incorporate ongoing learning and feedback and constantly adapt!

Things to Consider:
I'm curious about what you have in mind to evaluate the impact of the events, and would encourage you to think a little more about what indicators you can use to measure your impact. This feels like it may be really deeply connected to your larger strategy of encouraging districts to fund arts programs, so feels really critical to your wider success. How can you involve the students who participate in the workshops in the process of advocating for funding and share their stories with decision makers?

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!
 

Fish S.
2 February 2018 13:10

Hey Lauren -- sounds really awesome. I think those two workshops sound great! In terms of art projects for high school students -- I would definitely say to keep as open-ended as possible. I think giving them the opportunity to create something that they'll use, like a mug, is pretty great. If it's a self-selecting group of students that are really into art, they might appreciate the opportunity to be taught a new skill.

Do you have a plan to collect feedback/evaluations from these workshops? Might help you advance your broader mission...  

Lauren P.
2 February 2018 12:29

Fish, thanks for the feedback! Right now we are thinking of hosting two workshops. The first will focus more on exposure to musical instruments as well as music appreciation. The second will be based on the visual arts. We are eager to show students cost-effective ways to express themselves. Do you have any ideas or resources for fun/easy art projects for high school aged students? Right now we are thinking of something useful like mug painting.  

Fish S.
26 January 2018 19:20

Hi Lauren! This sounds amazing. Access to the arts is really important -- and yet, as you mentioned, it's often the first thing on the chopping block, especially in schools that serve economically disadvantaged students.

Sounds like you have a pretty clear plan for what you want to start doing. I'd love to hear a little more about what those workshops will look like! What will you teach? Do you need help designing them?

Let us know how we can be helpful to you :)