“Reflections” by Tori Romania

“You have to stand up for some things in this world.”

These words were spoken decades ago by Marjory Stoneman Douglas.  They now describe the actions of young people around the nation who will march this weekend to support a movement led by the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

March for Lives will take place Saturday in Washington DC and in “sibling” cities around the nation. The event, according to its mission statement, is about safety, not politics:

“There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing, and growing.”

The March for Lives website offers details about the upcoming event, including a list of artists that will perform on stage in the nation’s capitol in support of the students’ efforts to end gun violence.

“You have to stand up for some things in this world.”

“Happiness in Humanity” by Natalie Ring

Every generation, when faced with turmoil and confusion, looks to its most creative artists, activists, teachers, and leaders to inspire understanding, hope, healing and change.

I have the opportunity, as executive producer of the Working Class public television documentary series, to connect with students and teachers that are making a difference in our communities. Among them are the participants in a recent art challenge, sponsored by Pennsylvania College of Technology and WVIA Public Media, producers of Working Class.

The Dream & Do Art Challenge invited student artists to depict the world as they imagine it. Original works of art submitted by students from one Pennsylvania high school seemed to me to be well suited for these trying times.

“Stronger Together” by Morgan Cole

I featured art by one Southern Columbia Area High School student (“Stronger Together” by Morgan Cole) in last week’s blog. In this blog, I am pleased to share all seven entries from Southern Columbia students.

Individually, each work offers a unique artist’s perspective, rendered with real talent. Collectively, the seven works lead me to believe that something special is happening in the art program at Southern Columbia Area High School.

When I offered high praise to Southern Columbia art teacher Casie Baker, she immediately turned the credit over to her student artists, calling them her “dream team.” I was inspired by Casie’s enthusiasm and by the talents of her students. We need dreamers and doers in our schools and our communities.

“Lighter than Life” by CeCe Cook

The visions and voices of today’s high school students will guide our world in the not-too-distant future. It is important that we encourage all students to express themselves responsibly and creatively. Student activists and artists especially deserve our support, as they have the power to inspire their entire generation.

We need dreamers and doers in our schools and our communities.

As our nation considers important issues related to school safety, mental health, and gun control,  high school students are setting a new standard for student activism. They are standing up –  for themselves, for their peers and for the world they are about to inherit.

“Gundam Trees” by Russ Gleeson

I learned, through a recent article in The Atlantic, that many of the qualities exhibited by Parkland’s student activists – “confidence, persuasive communication, creativity, stage presence” – were honed in their high school’s theatre program.

This information, in addition to the inspiration I received from Casey Baker’s art students, reminded me that art in our schools is more than a luxury; it is a necessity. It is something worth standing up for, I believe.

Educators and programs that focus on art, music, and theatre deserve our attention and our support.

Creative thinking, communication and innovation are required to meet the challenges of modern times. Students practice these skills in classes that promote the creative arts. We cannot afford to lose these essential elements of education.

Educators and programs that focus on art, music, and theatre deserve our attention and our support.

Every generation faces its own challenges in determining what the world will be.

“Bouquet of Beauty” by Susan Gembic

When I see beautiful art created by students and when I read words that convince me of their potential to imagine and create a better world, I am confident that we are in good hands with the next generation.

Southern Columbia student Toni Romania created “Reflections,” a drawing (seen at the opening of this blog) that contrasts a futuristic city in ruins with her reflected vision of potential growth and development.

Toni said, “The whole scene is a representation of viewing the world through my eyes … I believe that there is room for improvement in the world as it is, and if we focus on making these improvements, the world can continue to flourish. However, if the bad overpowers the good, the world as we know it will slowly start to fall apart.”

Students understand the serious challenges we face in the world today and they are ready to stand up for the things that matter.

Southern Columbia student Hannah Bradley used these words to describe her painting, “Elation,” which captured a moment of innocence in her childhood: “Everything then was pretty and warm and everything felt safe and pure. That is how I imagine everyone should feel in an ideal world.”

From Casie Baker’s “dream team” of artists at Southern Columbia to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have taken a lead role in a national conversation about gun control and school safety, students are using their visions and voices to show us what the world could be.

It’s up to us to look and to listen.

“Elation” by Hannah Bradley


  1. I just came upon one of the paintings in your blog, called “Elation” by Hannah Bradley of Southern Columbia Area High School. This is a wonderful work of art and I wished to commend the young artist. What a joyful and inspiring painting. It is a sophisticated composition, with beautiful rhythm and unity. Good job!

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