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Boch Center arts leadership program fosters teen talent

Program focuses on art, education and advocacy

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Boch Center arts leadership program fosters teen talent
Students rehearse their advocacy for arts funding. Photo: courtesy Boch Center

A group of talented Boston and Everett teens is currently three weeks through the six-week City Spotlights Summer Leadership Program at the Boch Center. The students work 25 hours a week building their skill sets through arts employment. They are paid minimum wage, but the City Spotlights program goes far beyond the average summer job, allowing teens to earn money while pursuing their artistic dreams.

Students audition for the program in one of three disciplines: acting, singing/composing or dancing. Once accepted, the work begins.

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“They pick a social justice theme at the beginning of the summer and develop a workshop, which they tour through the community,” says Corey Evans, senior director of education at the Boch Center. “The program culminates in a summer showcase performance.”

This year’s theme is love and acceptance. Students are interpreting that in a number of ways, from romantic love to self-love and familial love. Last week, the 61 teen talents performed an original song, titled “Love Ain’t Always Easy,” at the Massachusetts State House, wherein they advocated for arts funding.

The program is as transformative for the students in the program as it is for the communities they support. Program participant Marck-Hens Jules of Everett says, “The program has really helped me come out of my shell. There are many opportunities to try new things. This is definitely going to help me in the kind of art I want to do in the future.”

Deniece Woodard of Dorchester, also working in the program, was won over not only by the self-discovery, but by the advocacy portion of the experience. “Heavy topics like the ones we’re discussing are easier to take in through art,” she says. “Social justice is a hard pill to swallow.” It certainly goes down easier through a song.

Evans says many former program participants now work part time as group leaders for the project. The goal is to hire some of them full time, completing the circle of arts opportunities. “Providing jobs for youth across the city is an important part of our mission,” says Evans. “Our niche is the arts.”

Though the program is only six weeks long, Evans says the teens grow tremendously in that time, and the confidence they develop in their skills is as important as the real world arts experience they add to their resumes. Evans says, “A lot of teens walk away saying ‘My mom didn’t know I could do that.’”

This Thursday, July 26, the teens will launch an all-day flash mob across Boston to showcase an original dance performance. Keep an eye out; these future arts leaders will be hard to miss.