Local Teacher Creates Access for Students in Her Community

By L'lia Thomas

L’lia Thomas (Ms. T) from La Tijera K-8 Academy of Excellence Charter School reflects on her experience with Ryman Arts and why she encourages her students to apply to the program.

I've been sending students to Ryman Arts since 2011 when I was teaching at View Park. I discovered what a wonderful program it was from my students at the time, Ronald Peters and Jahnell Maxwell, who had entered the program via their previous art teacher. Malaika Latty and Rebecca Tuynman were the first two contacts from Ryman Arts I ever interacted with. I really enjoyed what I saw of Malaika's teaching methods and style when she came out to help my students create pieces for Application Day. I also was super excited about the world of benefits this program offered to students.  

I encourage my students to apply because it forces them out of their bubble of comfort and complacency, encourages networking of like-minded students, compels them to develop stronger time management, and promotes public speaking and planning of ideas via feedback from peers or self-reflection. They have to frequently revise their work which will increase their resiliency in both work and school. Critiquing work at various stages of the creative process is excellent for developing their critical thinking and ability to articulate the meaning or purpose behind their work. Students are exposed to quality art supplies they may not be able to afford on their own. They're provided opportunities to attend spaces/places they wouldn't have had otherwise. Each enrolled student receives weeks of opportunity to learn how to develop and build a rapport with professional college level art educators in a college setting. Parents get to see their students flourish at something they would have probably not recognized, and it forces them to challenge their own styles and techniques due to the friendly competition of other Ryman Arts students. 

Master teaching artist Sergio Rebia leads a drawing demonstration on Application Day at Cal State Fullerton. 51 students from 45 different high schools attended, and 75% of them later applied to Ryman Arts.

Ms. T also writes about her students’ experience attending Application Day and the impact Ryman Arts has had on them…

Students got to see actual Ryman Arts students in class, and it was great because it allowed them to see if this was something they truly wished to pursue to help them in their future or if it was too advanced for them. 

The impact this program has on students is phenomenal! I've been asking for years for Ryman Arts sessions for educators because I can only imagine how much of a positive impact this would have, not only on my personal practice but also my teaching practice. The response I've received from students who have been accepted is phenomenal. They speak of how they enjoy the challenge and like being around students close to their age who are just as passionate about art as they are. They also enjoy how knowledgeable and honest the educators are.  Another thing that's been incredible is having Miss Robin come out to my classroom to facilitate two-day workshops for students who are applying. Her approach in my classroom space gives students a real taste of what it would be like to work in a similar environment.

Teachers and community leaders, like Ms. T, are the driving forces behind the success of our outreach programs. Through the encouragement of our community partners, high school students who are underexposed to the arts are able to gain access and thrive in Ryman Arts. We appreciate the efforts of our community partners and the work they have done to ensure that our youth receive the tools and opportunity for future success.