The year of the pivot – cancelled plans and new “normals” – has also been a year of increased belief in the power of voice. We have been moved by protests against injustice, record voting turnouts, and calls from neighbors to support one another.
Sometimes it’s hard to see our own power in changing systems, to realize the amplification of our own voice. But you do have power, and a voice, as a valued donor to the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology.
Together we can celebrate WMCAT teens and adults whose journeys to creativity, college, and career challenge inequitable systems. Below is a story of how one young man found and elevated his voice at WMCAT. We ask you to continue to challenge the status quo with us in the new year so that together we can amplify voice.
Jorge Miguel embraces every opportunity he can find. A graduate of Union High School and Grand Valley State University, Jorge recently accepted a position with the City of Grand Rapids’ Thrive Outside program. It’s the latest step in his personal mission to be a resource to migrant and immigrant communities, to connect people to the outdoors, and to share his story.
Jorge’s WMCAT journey kickstarted when he joined our fashion design and video game design studios as a high school senior. “WMCAT was the first real space where I could talk about race and identity,” he recalled. “It’s the way the community should work.”
Following his experience in our Teen Arts + Tech program, Jorge stayed on at WMCAT as an apprentice with our screen printing business Ambrose, and as a young adult exploring career pathways in our Step Year mentoring program. These experiences paved Jorge’s journey with life-changing opportunities.
He traveled to Yellowstone National Park with fellow teen artists; partnered with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks on a public art project; and learned to run a small business with Ambrose. “Those different spaces add to your experience and are really transformational,” he said. “I consider [the trip to Yellowstone] a milestone for my passion for the environment.”
Today Jorge is elevating his voice as a Community Catalyst with WMCAT’s Public Agency. He’s being trained in equity-centered design, gaining tools to affect change, and leading meaningful community projects. Jorge and fellow Catalysts are working with a local program to better design pathways from high school to college – a full circle moment for this first-generation college grad. “I am so grateful to be a part of this work,” he shared.
You are creating the space for this work, for programs that provide opportunity to teens and adults. When you contribute to WMCAT, you are using the power of your voice to advance equity and opportunity in our community. You are ensuring that leaders like Jorge have the skills, support and networks to change inequitable systems. That is powerful. And we thank you!
Your support ensures WMCAT is ready for whatever 2021 brings. Whether it be virtual, hybrid, or on-site, we will be open for our students. Systems of inequity can be disrupted by high school students amplifying their voices through art, by adults finding economic security through new careers, and by young adults like Jorge sharing their stories.
“I have a plan after this next year of working with the city,” Jorge said. “I will build a channel for sharing my identity, for being a resource for immigrants and migrants, for getting them outdoors. This is needed work.”
Thank you for your friendship to WMCAT this year. Thank you for amplifying your voice to create a more equitable community.