On Thursday July 21st, I was asked to speak to a group of students at the Simpson Street Free Press regarding the recent budget cuts and threats to music and fine arts programming in the MMSD. I have to say that I really enjoy the opportunity to speak with students. I feel it is very important to listen to their issues as well as giving them the opportunity to hear an adult perspective.
First, I was given a tour of their facility (which is located across from South Towne Mall). It is basically one large room with many tables, computers and a lot of dinosaur books. I wondered why so many dinosaur books? Apparently, some students sometimes have to submit an article as many as seven times to be proofread before being published. Hence the reason for so many dinosaur books – they never go out of date because they’re extinct! I was impressed with the professionalism in which the young writers did their work at a whisper noise level. At the time of my visit, there were about twenty-five students working on different aspects of the newspaper. It truly reminded me of the Wisconsin State Journal and Capital Times newsroom (which I was at earlier that same day talking with Christina Daglas).
Also, I was able to meet the students “to put faces with the names.” These students included Jazmine Jackson (who wrote an excellent composition on minority student achievement gap – published on SIS), Andrea Gilmore (who wrote an editorial on 4th and 5th grade strings program becoming part of the Elementary school curriculum – published in the State Journal and on SIS) and Si Si Chen (whose editorial was published in the Wisconsin State Journal) and Charles Peterson.
Next, I met with this small group of students along with several others including a couple of members of the board of directors (Jim Pliner, Athletic Director of LaFollette and Godwin Amegashie, state Director of Minority Business Programs) and program organizer Jim Kramer. The students asked many questions regarding the recent referenda, the budget and of course, “Why are programs being cut?” These students also talked about their own challenges of being one of few racial and ethnic minorities in band, orchestra, fine arts and advanced placement courses. I challenged them to continue their leadership by recruiting others to join them and to stay involved in their classes/programs no matter what the racial/ethnic composition of the class is.
In closing, I thoroughly enjoyed my time listening and speaking with students at the Simpson Street Free Press. These students are very smart, mature beyond their years and enthusiastic about education. There’s no doubt in my mind that these students are going to be successful! I look forward to shaking their hands in the future on graduation day. I encourage everyone to read the Simpson Street Free Press. It is a free publication available at many local businesses. Better yet, donate some money, time or even volunteer. I’m going to.
Donations can be sent to: Simpson Street Free Press P.O. Box 6307 Monona, WI 53716. Prospective volunteers should contact Jim Kramer at (608) 223-0489 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is www.simpsonstreetfreepress.org.