By Sadeya Zaman

Halfway through the second week of the program, the 63 Teen Leaders were able to successfully deliver a beautiful and powerful presentation for Representative Paul McMurtry in the Massachusetts State House. With a time crunch of about only 6 hours within 4 days for our advocacy sessions, the teens actively worked together to think about a way to advocate for the arts and themselves, to encourage and ask for $18 million of the state budget to be funded to the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) in order to help arts programs.

Through last week and this week, the teens were able to learn about what advocacy was to them, what to advocate for, and how to self-advocate. Thinking about what they want to advocate for not only helped them understand what was valuable to them, but also helped them understand who they were and notice the voices they had that needed to be heard. Everyone believed that different forms of art are important to their humanity. It always leaves me in awe of how passionately a big group of teens can bond over something they all have in common, in this case a sincere love for the arts.

The teens created an original song titled "Grow" that is about the importance of community and showing love to yourself and others in order to move forward. They wrote their own stories about how the arts have impacted their lives on a positive form. "Grow" and three of the teens’ personal stories were included in the presentation; showcasing how significantly the arts have impacted every single one of their lives. At the end of their presentation, the Teen Leaders revealed this summer’s theme for their workshops and final showcase as “#MediaIsPower” which will highlight the many reasons social media is used, the negatives and positives that come with it and how it can affect people individually, collectively, and globally.