By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County
“People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit.” In her book, “A Short Guide to a Happy Life,” Anna Quindlen reflects on what it means to live deeply from your own unique self, rather than merely to exist from one day to the next. It’s a message we hear often – passion is everything.
In the busyness of our structured weeks, it is easy to lose track of our essential self – the part that imagines, dreams and creates. When our days are filled with stress and more activities than time, our focus tends to be outward rather than inward. Yet passion comes from a place deep within us and must be tapped to find a pathway for expression.
Hopefully, all of us can think of a time or times when we have been in our glory. Maybe those periods of fulfillment have centered around career, relationships or even humble yet significant moments that made an ordinary day extraordinary. It’s as though body, mind and soul are in personal harmonic synchrony, and you can almost feel your heart smiling.
Young Audiences of Northeast Texas strives to ignite that type of passion by using the arts to lay a foundation of creativity, innovation and compassion for children. This nonprofit organization strongly believes that an arts-rich education increases the opportunities for student success in school, work and life, thereby impacting an entire community. Their mission is motivated by research which has found that when students have high exposure to the arts, they are five times less likely to drop out of high school and two times more likely to go to college.
For twenty years, Young Audiences has partnered with Tyler ISD to increase arts access for students. A grant from the Women’s Fund of Smith County has enabled Young Audiences to expand their service to students in Chapel Hill and Whitehouse school districts. Children learn best when they are truly engaged and value the learning process. With the help of the recent grant, more students are learning in and through the arts and developing the ability to look beyond facts and figures to creatively meet new challenges. Arts integration allows a fifth-grade science classroom to come alive through a strategy called “Scientific Thought in Motion.” The program is child-centered and outcome-driven, as concepts become more meaningful and memorable for both the student and the teacher.
A previous Women’s Fund grant to Young Audiences expanded the Dance for Life Program in Tyler ISD middle schools. Creating balance through dance has affected hundreds of teenage girls, giving them an outlet for positive self-expression. No matter the form – dance, drawing, music or poetry – the arts often help us find purpose and passion. Arts and culture are among the focus areas of the Women’s Fund grant making process, because feeding the soul is as important as feeding the hungry.
To celebrate twenty years of service, Young Audiences of Northeast Texas hosted an Arts for All Kids luncheon. The program included a musical experience for those in attendance – a simulation of an arts integrated classroom. A teaching artist used percussion to engage the audience. With rhythm sticks, shakers, castanets and even cow bells, we followed his beat and made magic together. It was a crystal-clear picture of communication, collaboration, cooperation and creativity. Not a word was spoken, but our hearts were singing!
“You are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart,” writes Quindlen. When our soul has been fed and our passion has been realized, we can live a life that gives voice to our song.
Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a collective giving circle whose grant awards bring positive change to the lives of women and children in Smith County. The Women’s Fund celebrates ten years of giving at their annual Power of the Purse Luncheon on Tuesday, November 14. Visit www.womensfundsc.org for details about the event and for information on membership and outreach.