Testimonial #30: Lorenzo Dawson, Hope for Miami

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

The University of Vermont had an experimental program using acting and play production (as intro college English) as a way to connect with students so that they could write and create out of affirmation. My teacher in this course “saw” me. She cut me loose to create characters and act them out. It was my first fledgling step out of mental illness.

Today, I coach students in artistic expression, setting them free to see who they are, and believe that they can learn and do anything.

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

I grew up with zero use of the arts to call me forth. At home as a 5-year old, I was singing and playing instruments for family gatherings. Instinctively, I knew that, if an adult gave me a creative pathway, I could learn and do anything. Instead, because no one “saw” me, I went on a downward spiral into mental illness.

Nearly 20 years later, I began to give myself permission to be who I was without restrictions, free from the one-size-fits-all academic rigors I had been raised in. I began to envision young people being called forth by those who committed themselves to “see” students outside of the box of academic performance standards.

For the past few years, I have been giving to young people what I didn’t get. I “see” them. I use ballroom dancing, music, and writing to open pathways for students to see themselves, their value, and their place as a vital part of their generation. Now I watch them instinctively know that they can learn and do anything, right now, as a young person. Though using creative arts to call students forth in this way has a long way to go in our schools, I’m thrilled to be a part of this day of small beginnings.

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