Exhausted from a full day of classes at West Mecklenburg High School and an unusually long wait for the bus, Jasmine Santos still has a warm smile as she exclaims “The bus was over an hour late,” to her patient-yet-anxious instructors at Studio 345. It’s an hour before the Mecklenburg County Commissioners meeting, and Jasmine, along with several other students, quickly collect themselves, so they can go to the meeting and share something close to their hearts – their love for Studio 345.
The day prior, they concluded Studio 345’s third trimester with a celebratory gallery exhibition, film screenings, and musical performances at McGlohon Theater in Spirit Square. While it also represented the finale of Studio 345’s inaugural year, for many of the students, it’s just the beginning of a lifetime of opportunities they never knew existed before attending the program. “Studio 345 has done a lot for me,” Jasmine states as she briskly walks through Uptown Charlotte toward the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. “It taught me photography techniques, and I’ll use them as a hobby and when I become a professional cosmetologist.”
During the celebration, students in the digital photography track of the program shared amazing still photos captured during their weekly expeditions in Uptown Charlotte and surrounding neighborhoods. They also displayed poignant head shots of residents in Edwin Towers, a CHA-governed high-rise facility for the elderly that is also located in Uptown Charlotte. Using various digital editing software and careful instruction from Studio 345’s teaching artists, students were able to create visual artistry that left the evening’s viewers in awe. Similarly, many Edwin Towers residents that were photographed attended the celebration and were ecstatic upon seeing the final results of what one resident called her “glamour shoot.”
Not to be outshined, students in the digital media track of the program gave the celebration’s attendees amazing performances that featured original songs (lyrics and music) and showcased the students’ talent through both musical and vocal instruments. They also shared a dynamic short film they created themselves.
A day later, Jasmine and the other students exude humble confidence and youthful energy as they approach the Government Center. Much of their persona can be attributed to their natural character before they enrolled in Studio 345, but a portion of it is directly related to what they gained from the program. That was the aim of the Arts & Science Council (ASC) and its partners when they created the program based on a model where “environment shapes behavior.”
In the final steps before entering the Government Center, when asked what single suggestion she would give to improve Studio 345, Jasmine’s answer was simple, yet profound: “Make room for more students to join each trimester. There are people in my school that want to get in really bad.” In that statement, she surmised the mission of both her and her fellow students when they address the County Commissioners’ – that everyone must be told how Studio 345 is positively changing the lives of students at-risk of not graduating in Mecklenburg County, and it must not only continue, it must grow.
This time, the voice in the field of corn was ASC and its invaluable partners. We’ve built it, and they want to come.