Student Voices from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

This Saturday, the Inside Out Team visited the New Jersey Performing Arts Center to listen to the voices of politically engaged youth. Despite their young age, they have a great understanding of the world around them and demand equality and acceptance for all identities.

The IOP Team

For this in-person workshop, In the Mix, a student-led ​​community based podcast at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, welcomed us to talk about the issues that are important to them. The goal: empower students in the creation of their Action and help them define the message they want to put out into the world.

During the hour-long class, our Team spoke to the students about how we use art to change the world, and asked them what they wanted to focus on. The 14 to 16 year olds were ready to speak their minds. They use their weekly sessions to engage in dialogue about issues that they see in the world and their lives, and are excited to use art for activism.

Students were asked “What do you want to talk about through your Action?” At first, their answers were broad: Black Lives Matter, love, LGBTQ+, homelessness, gender equality, women’s rights, and mental health. The more we talked, the more they realized that what they want to see in their community is more awareness, inclusivity, and for people to be more understanding of each other.

As the conversation continued, students developed their topics in more detail. Some of their conclusions were: there is more than one definition of being American; we need to stand in solidarity with each other and learn how to communicate in a positive way; we need to stand our ground and be faithful to our own values; we need to reduce micro-aggression in the education context.

Ultimately, these students came to the conclusion that they want equality for all identities in every way. They decided to include their friends, families, other students of the NJPAC, and people at school. Each participant will choose an aspect of the theme that matters most to them, give a short quote and make a strong face that corresponds to the issue. They want people to see their portraits and reflect.

After spring break, the students will gather to write their final Action statement and take their portraits. They even invited us to come back to be interviewed for their podcast! Together with their teachers, the students will paste their posters onto boards that they will exhibit at different public events before giving them a permanent home in a nearby building.

Our Team looks forward to answering the students’ questions and seeing their vision come to life!