The Suskind Legacy Living On

Posted 28 November 2012 12:00 AM by Corey Evans, Director of Education

As I reflect back on the last few weeks, I am thankful. I know that we were all supposed to be sharing our “thanks” last week, given that it was Thanksgiving and all, but we in the Citi Center Education Department were so busy living in the moment of our “thanks” that it was hard to slow down long enough to really reflect on our thanks. With the amazing celebration of Joe’s 25th Anniversary Gala behind us, I am thankful to work in a place where our President and CEO is committed to providing access to arts education to ALL. I am thankful to know that he is so committed to our education programs and to the young people served through these programs that his biggest concern the day of the Gala (that was celebrating HIS accomplishments) was making sure that our Teen Leaders could be seen and heard and celebrated that night. I am thankful that he was so touched by the compassion and perseverance of our young people at the Gala that he was moved to tears. I am thankful to work in a place with a meaningful mission that I really, truly believe in. Our education programs at Citi Center are built on a series of beliefs:

We believe that it is a right, not a privilege, for every youth, regardless of skill level and/or socioeconomic status, to have a creative life, experience art, express themselves creatively, and develop their own creative capital.

We believe that the arts and creativity are essential to a thriving community, robust economy, and future innovation.

We believe that our community outreach and education programs develop and celebrate creative thinkers, doers, and leaders at all levels.

More importantly, these beliefs are built on a rich foundation and history that has sustained the Citi Center Education Department for 25 years: The Suskind Story. As Director of Education, I am very proud to be passing on the Suskind Story to a new generation of young people in Boston. I am even more proud to see the young people in our programs not only embrace the Suskind Story, but truly embody the spirit of Walter Suskind in a meaningful way.

On the first day of the City Spotlights Summer Leadership Program, we told our new Teen Leaders The Suskind Story and showed them the video about Walter Suskind narrated by Maurice Vanderpol. The Teen Leaders were riveted and inspired. They were told that it was BECAUSE of The Suskind Story, THROUGH the generosity of the Vanderpols (and many others over the years) and Joe Spaulding’s commitment to keeping the Suskind and Vanderpol legacies alive, that they were sitting there in the Met Room on that day. We explained that the Suskind Story is the foundation for everything that we do and have done for the past 25 years in the Citi Center Education Department, and that they too, were now a part of this rich history and stewards of this legacy.

After reflecting on the story, our Teen Leaders were asked to think about the work they were going to do together as leaders in their communities. They were asked to decide the focus of the work they would do toward social change, keeping in mind the bravery and selflessness of Walter Suskind. They chose to focus their work on bullying and wanted to develop anti-bullying workshops to present for children in Boston-area Community Centers – all in the name of Walter Suskind.

I have many things to be thankful for, but what I am most thankful for is that every single one of our 2012 Summer City Spotlights Teen Leaders can clearly articulate the Suskind Story – and that they believe in keeping Walter Suskind’s story alive through the work that they do as Teen Leaders to make their own communities stronger. Last month, we proudly launched our first Teen Council. Our first round of applicants came from our 2012 Summer Teen Leaders and the first question on the Teen Council Essay Application was: What are 3 leadership qualities of Walter Suskind that you demonstrated in this summer’s City Spotlights program? Please use specific examples.

Below are a few excerpts of their answers: Walter Suskind is an unsung hero in history. By orchestrating the escape of over 1,000 Dutch children and adults under the guise of a Nazi sympathizer, he put his own life in jeopardy to save others, many of them strangers. This dogged loyalty and courage that Suskind displayed, along with his remarkable tenacity and ability to lead others in times of difficulty, are three qualities that I believe I demonstrated during this summer’s City Spotlights program. Street performing was something I had never done before, and I was up to my neck in butterflies, dreading the flash mobs and street theaters. But once I got over my fear and just did it, everything became much easier. Not only did I want to set a good example for others who may have been dreading the tours as much as me, but I wanted to grow as a performer as well, and I persistently kept at it. Also, when we stumbled on rough patches, I did my best to collect all sides of the story and comfort the targets of the unnecessary and unfortunate events.

-              Connie, Teen Council Member and 2012 City Spotlights Teen Leader

Thanks to Walter Suskind I had the wonderful opportunity of expressing myself through the arts. Because of his bravery and selflessness I could speak out and be who I am today. Suskind was a man who believed in the arts and found it necessary to keep the dream going. With arts comes education and as one community it can be accomplished. He made it possible for us to join such a program and become better people and have a better community. I would convince all young teens to take advantage of opportunities like this and grow. Dancing, singing and acting become who you are after being in a small close community which is more like a family with people who become a part of who you are.

-              Jade, Teen Council Member and 2012 City Spotlights Teen Leader

One of the qualities that I have portrayed of Walter Suskind is that I have showed my passion for art throughout the program. Art is something beyond life in-fact it is life itself. Without the arts I don't think I would be able to express myself on how I am really feeling, I would have to be forced to live in a world where society makes me who I am. Because City Spotlights was based on the arts, I decided to give it my all and be dedicated to what I was doing - I wanted to challenge myself on how good I was and how talented I can really get doing something I want. Also I wanted to make sure at the end of the day I was doing it to make myself proud. Just like Walter Suskind I took every opportunity to perfect what I was doing with no regrets. I wanted to be something beyond magical and because of my ambition I was able to achieve my goals. I have never performed in front of people… but because of my passion for the arts I decided to take risks and make all my moments at City Spotlights memorable. Another example of Walter Suskind that I have portrayed in the City Spotlights Program was my ability to get along with people and help them out.

-              Emmanuel, Teen Council Member and 2012 City Spotlights Teen Leader

As Citi Performing Arts Center and the Education Team continue to be committed to the Vanderpol’s dream of keeping the Suskind Story alive, and our Teen Leaders continue to embody the Suskind Story through their work, I am thankful.

The Gala was not just a tribute to Joe Spaulding and his extraordinary leadership over the last 25 years, but it was a living, breathing testament of the Suskind Story alive today through the education programs and participants. From the Teen Leaders passion and song to our first City Spotlights Artist Fellow Toni Bee’s eloquent tribute to Joe and his legacy of building and growing a community, Suskind was ever-present in word, song, laughter, love and the overall warmth of the night. I am so very proud and thankful to be a part of the legacy of Walter Suskind through the work of the Education Department at Citi Performing Arts Center!

Corey Evans

Director of Education

Citi Performing Arts Center

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