Empowering Students,
Empowers Instructors


SUMMER, 2018
By: Teddy Wingert

The ground breaks as collaborative flags are raised outside of Fennville Public Schools. After three weeks of hard work during the SCA’s Growing Young Artist program, young creatives and a proven education team unite to see the final product of their work. The class bursts out the back door with exclamations of “Wow!” “They look so cool!” and other words of enthusiasm. Students’ eyes light up and they watch the colorful flags flap in the wind. “That’s your work. You helped make those,” said GYA Instructor Rachael Kayes.

Ten weeks earlier this diverse team of GYA instructors were meeting for the first time to brainstorm and the curriculum that would lead the 3-week course. They discussed their individual visions for the impact and growth they hoped to see out of their students. Each instructor has unique experiences they bring to GYA program, each coming from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets. Instructors range from include those returning, those with no previous art experience and those in their first year in the classroom. Growing Young Artists aims to inspire success in educators while inspiring change in local youth.

The SCA’s first objective is to empower and influence GYA students, but in the process to equip their instructors to grow as professional educators. This 3-week intensive art-immersed experience includes 30 hours of preparation and 80 hours of hands-on experience with students. During the program, instructors have more time with their students than they have during an entire school year of typical art class.

With an abundance of classroom time, GYA instructors have the opportunity to build individual relationships with their students, while those students learn about relationship building. Instructor Grace Springsteen talks about what she’s gained from the program that only a hands-on experience like GYA can provide:


“It’s the positive attitude and connections that transfer over. Having camaraderie and compassion. Being kind and taking the time to listen can teach kids so much. School doesn’t teach you these things but GYA has allowed me to experience them hands on.”


Through writing and art prompts, students dive into self-exploration, discovering who they are and who they want to be. GYA encourages growth in students, and through their interactions, instructors learn about themselves as educators and define their hopes for the future. A senior at Texas Christian University, Avery Burke is a new addition to the education team and weighs in on how GYA has impacted her:

“I still have so much to learn but am now more aware how big my heart is for kids and teaching,” said Burke. “My eyes have been opened to a marginalized population that is so close to home. There is a need and the SCA and Fennville Public Schools are helping fill that need. These students are teaching us while we are teaching them and is mutually beneficial.”

Involving many students and diverse projects, GYA calls for extra hands and allows interns an opportunity to experience the teaching world. Sydney Kierzek is a 9th grader at Saugatuck High School who helped in the classroom this summer. She speaks of the ways she was empowered by instructors while she was empowering students.

“This experience was super beneficial for me. Both of the teachers I worked with this year left huge impressions on me and I am so grateful for them,” said Kierzek. “Before the program, I wasn’t really confident with teaching big groups of kids by myself, but now I can do so with confidence and control. Students may be difficult, but ultimately helping them will help you.”

Growing Young Artists is a multifaceted program benefiting students, instructors, teachers and the community. Being a part of the what the SCA calls the “Joy Squad”, the team of instructors are an essential element of a change agent. Instructors help to empower their students to discover themselves. Simultaneously they grow into an experienced, empowered educator.

“Collaborating is something that doesn’t happen when you are the only art teacher in a school. To be able to collaborate and realize other people can take some of the burdens is a relieving and recharging experience.” said GYA Coordinator Zac Wanner.

Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our newsletter.