Lorenzo Jackson & Najaya Royal Exhibit Creative Leadership
Last weekend Adobe Youth Voices celebrated another great year at WNET’s Celebration of Teaching & Learning. During the conference, which brought together more than 10,000 educators and thought leaders, Adobe Youth Voices led six workshops: three each on the topics of creating music videos and portrait documentaries. Educators filled up the room for each session and gained hands-on experience with Essentials curriculum.
During the music video workshops, much attention was given to the use of rhythm and how to cut video segments to a musical beat. Teaching teams from elementary through high school levels discussed the opportunities for using music videos as a tool to explore social issues.
Participants who attended the portrait documentary workshops started the sessions by interviewing each other about why they became educators, and the interviews yielded many inspired stories. The workshops focused on providing clear-cut interview tips as well as recommendations for taking complex social issues and breaking them down into bite sized pieces, so that students can create projects with clear and concise messages.
The highlight of the conference for Adobe Youth Voices was the panel discussion moderated by Wes Moore, a New York Times best-selling author and host of the television program Beyond Belief. Wes Moore’s panel featured a discussion of educational opportunities and how they can make a difference in the lives of young people.
The panel included two Adobe Youth Voices students: Lorenzo Jackson, a senior in high school and a theater student in the Peapod Adobe Youth Voices Academy at Urban Arts Partnership, as well as Najaya Royal, a freshman in high school who is an accomplished poet, writer and musician.
Lorenzo Jackson has been involved with Urban Arts Partnership for three years, where he has shined as a star student and actor extraordinaire. “Lorenzo is like a tornado,” says Armando Somoza, an educator who has worked with Lorenzo since he first enrolled in the program. Armando refers to the force of Lorenzo’s personality, and his refusal to be stopped by obstacles in his path.
Lorenzo overcame difficult family circumstances in his early teens to develop a keen talent for stage performance, ranging from traditional theater to stand-up comedy. Lorenzo has his eye on Fordham University’s theatre department, where he hopes to attend college next fall. “I made it this far,” says Lorenzo. “Why can’t I make it all the way?”
What is the secret of his success? “It takes faith, patience, and dedication to get anywhere,” explained Lorenzo during Saturday’s panel discussion. “Surround yourself with people who have good intentions.”
Najaya Royal, who just turned fifteen, is already making a name for herself among performing arts communities in New York City. She credits her success to the support and positive influence of her mother. “She’s a really strong person,” says Najaya. “She’s the best role model I could ask for.”
Najaya’s mother has encouraged her creative pursuits since a young age, when Najaya first expressed an interest in poetry. Since then, Najaya’s poetry has been included in five poetry anthologies, and has been set to opera music by the American Opera Project, who performed Najaya’s poetry at Carnegie Hall, as well as a public performance in Ft. Greene Park in Brooklyn as a part of the Walt Whitman Project.
Watch the performance of Najaya’s poem, Brooklyn Cinderella:
Najaya is also an accomplished violinist and saxophone player, and she wants to combine her love of music and her love of writing into a career as a music journalist. “I want to write about up and coming artists, to give light to unrecognized performers,” says Najaya of her plans for the future.
Najaya’s own experience with integrating disciplines gives her ideas about how the education system can be improved for students everywhere. “I think students need an outlet for expressing themselves,” says Najaya. “Teachers should have their students write down what’s important to them on the first day of class, and then teachers should help students use what they are passionate about to help them with the subjects they are struggling with.” Najaya puts this advice into practice in her own life, by setting her class notes to music when she studies for a test.
“Don’t be afraid to do something to help yourself,” says Najaya. During Saturday’s panel discussion, she explained, “We all have a dream. But it’s your choice to go after that dream.”