For Students Like Me, the Arts Aren’t an 'Extra.’ They’re a Lifeline
Schools should aim to produce well-rounded students. They can’t do that if they don’t allocate resources and support for the arts.
Ever since I was little, I've wanted to be a performer.
I love to write and sing, dance, and choreograph. I plan on evolving these talents into something bigger: working as a professional recording artist. It’s my biggest dream, but for many, this isn’t a very “practical” career. It lacks stability and is ultimately a big game of chance. This means that those who are pursuing it, like me, haven’t and don’t receive the support necessary to make the game of chance even slightly easier.
Some school systems are able to give students the opportunities to explore their interests, no matter how impractical. That’s not the case in other school systems that don't have enough resources to fully support every student. More often than not, students in those schools get left behind or stuck trying to make a decent living out of jobs they don’t enjoy, often having to choose money over happiness.
As a graduating senior, I have seen and experienced this firsthand within the K-12 system. I am applying to colleges, and the eight months I’ve spent figuring out what college I want to attend has shown me that college is not much different from the disparities in the way students are supported in K-12 schools. The whole system is, once again, a rat race of privilege, money, and opportunity.
This is my problem with the education system: There is no general set of supportive resources that can be mitigated and distributed in a manner that would allow every student—regardless of income, living situation, social status, or influence—to be adequately supported. Some have it easy, some have it hard. But the reality is that the latter—students like me—are left hopelessly floating in a sea of uncertainty, not knowing how to use their skills to live a successful life or career they enjoy that will allow them to be successful.
My version of success is being a chart-topping recording artist, producer, and songwriter, inspiring my fans, performing night after night around the world, and making enough money to support my family and others. In a world of social media and the highest levels of global connection ever, this isn’t a completely unrealistic goal. Although it is challenging to find success in the music industry, it is attainable with what? Support!
I’ve known since elementary school that I want to be famous, and now as a senior, I can easily say that I have never felt adequately supported in that goal. The schools I attended only had enough resources to focus on one aspect of education. Anything else was pretty much up to me and the few people who shared my goal. I vividly remember not having opportunities to perform in anything but rinky-dink talent shows in middle school. In seventh grade, we had a Black history festival that was put together by one staff member, and even that was very low quality. The artistic endeavors at my schools not only lacked adequate funding but attention as well.
This rolled over into my high school experience. I am about to graduate from Metro Academic and Classical High School, one of the top academically performing schools in Missouri.
I did have the opportunity to attend a more arts-related school because there are a couple in the area. I would never fully blame my high school for not supporting my artistic endeavors because I chose to attend a school that isn't geared toward the arts. But I am a firm believer in being a well-rounded student. Although there are schools dedicated to certain career paths, they should still aim to produce the most well-rounded students they can, which means that they give attention to multiple areas of stimulation, including the arts. My school didn't do this. They funneled their time and resources into sports and academics, leaving the rest of the clubs and organizations with scraps. For example, shows done by the dance team and the singing club, both of which I was a part of, could have been much better with better funding and attention. It was offensive that the school would leave us on our own to produce the shows, but they always wanted us for pep rallies and things of that sort. On top of this, the school doesn’t have many classes outside of traditional subjects or other support for artistic students. There are no college fairs, career seminars, or scholarship opportunities for those who may want to dance as opposed to those who want to dissect. All of this made high school boring for me. I had to find the motivation to do what they asked me to do.
And in some ways, I'm still looking for that motivation. Not having my talents and passions worked on pushed me away from them, and made me think that success is made up by how much money you’re making. I am now realizing that being successful is finding a way to live doing what you love, and for many people that just isn't an option. As much as I want to become famous and perform for people all over the world, at the moment that dream seems too far to reach. But imagine if every student got the attention and support they needed. Imagine how great the product would be if students were pursuing what they want versus what other people tell them they need. Students should feel comfortable and supported in the decisions they make about their life path. I would have loved an experience like this.
Eve Hill is an 18-year-old, Black transgender woman living in St. Louis, Missouri. She enjoys having conversations around equity and humanity, and she intends to bring those conversations to the forefront of her career on the main stage.
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