My 12-year old daughter and 10-year old son recently attended two sessions of summer camp, at The Crucible, and I am moved to write my very first blog. When my kids attended their first summer session in June, I was a full-time working mom, happy to have a cool and creative safe place to send my budding artists. Both kids were thrilled at taking such cool classes and were a part of the selection process in choosing classes.
My girl was a bit apprehensive but enjoyed being the lone girl in the all male blacksmithing and welding courses.
She not only enjoyed her experience in the classroom but absolutely loved the fact that the teachers did not let her "feel like the only girl" and did not make a big deal out of any extra time or attention they spent introducing her to the art form and tools. She felt strong and after her second day of class exclaimed, "Mom - please sign me up for more classes in July; I always thought I was clumsy, but I'm not and didn't even hurt myself!"
My son is easy-going but a bit of a loner - so I was just thrilled to see him make friends and be so engaged -- not just with his campmates, but also with the teachers and staff at the Crucible. Everyone made it a point to talk to the kids in a down-to-earth, respectful manner that made them feel confident in being the little creative and expressive beings that they are ... not just a kid in day camp. And as I observed the interaction between student and staff/teacher, I had the feeling that the same communication rhythm and flow was no different than with adult students who enroll for classes.
As a New Yorker, I had to ask myself, "What is wrong with this picture? Where is the danger or lapse in security that makes this not as cool as it appears?" Well, sometimes the universe allows you to get the answers you are seeking. By the time my kids were ready for the July session, my contract employment had ended, and my finances and schedule were both in a shambles. I volunteered in The Crucible office that week while my kids were in the July camp and got to see the daily habits and structure of the workplace/studio first-hand. The staff members are on point from the moment they enter the facility. They provide the kids with snacks, love, attention, problem solving skills, support and real life tools, modeling being respectful and honoring individuality and diversity. Students are escorted to and from the West Oakland Bart Station and staff also walk those kids who did not bring a bag lunch as they are instructed to the local lunch spots a few blocks away. By the end of the day when I am ready for a break from my own kids and my patience is wearing thin, the The Crucible staff seems to have a great internal support system and they stay upbeat and positively charged through the day until parents arrive for pickup and the last child is escorted to the BART station.
All kids should have access to programs like this, where they not only become better 'little people' through exposure to a diverse environment, but where they learn to develop the creative talent we all have within, but too few are fortunate enough to have a place to cultivate this gift.
My only wish ... Can't you guys open this type of community / art center in every major city? But please start with New York where I'm moving back to in a couple of months. I had to promise the kids can take classes when they come to the bay area to visit their dad in the summers and during winter / spring break from their new home in NYC!
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