RAW Art Works graduates make their voices heard in the central square

Raw Art Works graduate Sheila Burgos speaks at the graduation ceremony on Friday. (Spenser Hasak)

LYNN — More than $2.8 million in college financial aid was raised by 25 seniors graduating from the RAW Art Works studio on Friday — 58% of whom will be first-generation students.

More importantly, however, they found their own voice and the realization of its power. They received a symbolic torch from their mentors because of this – individual brushes marking their artistic achievements during the Senior Brush Ceremony.

“Wherever your path takes you, always take art with you,” said Hébert Labbate, project launch manager.

Labbate said these symbolic brushes meant graduates successfully developed four critical literacies that RAW aimed to develop – sense of identity; self-representation, or their own voice; social agency, that is, the ability to change the environment around them; and critical dialogue which is the ability to be honest with themselves and the world around them.

“We truly believe that everyone has a story to tell, and we provide countless ways for them through the arts to tell their stories, so they can be seen and heard,” said the RAW executive director and l one of its founders, Kit Jenkins.

To celebrate the individual voices of their students, the teachers created individual, colorful brushes for all of their graduates – some covered in glitter, others simple and elegant, with each brush bearing a single word that best distinguished each person’s uniqueness. student.

Some of the words inscribed on the brushes were ‘rooted’, ‘combatant’, ‘training’, ‘resilient’ and ‘exuberant’. The mentors also wrote short letters for each of their students, stating that “no one deserves the open skies” as much as they do and that they have a lot “to offer this world”.

In return, the students also made individual brushes for their mentors with words such as “brilliant” and “motivational”. Each student had a personal mentor, and Jenkins said the studio tries to select the most appropriate mentor for each student.

One of the mentors and professional photographer Kim Indresano said she meets with her student practically every week, teaches her about time management and helps her come up with ideas on what to do next in her life .

“Basically the cheerleader, supporting her and loving her,” Indresano said.

The parents expressed their gratitude to the mentors and the studio, saying it was “fantastic and amazing,” as Lynn resident Joe Dash said.

Wilfredo Cespedes, a resident of Lynn, said all his daughters went to RAW, and this Friday when he went to the graduation ceremony for his granddaughter – his sister, who accompanied them, said that next year she also wanted to join RAW. Cespedes said people’s hearts need to be touched and inspired so they can do great things.

“Your art can really touch the heart,” Cespedes said.

Lynn resident Heidy Ramirez thanked the school for helping Lynn’s immigrant community and working with her son every day.

“You worked with him every day and made him the man he is today,” Ramirez said. “You changed our family history,” Ramirez said.

Jenkins said most young graduate artists who engaged in painting, sculpture, printmaking and other arts at RAW for three to 10 years would go on to pursue fields other than art in college, and these fields ranged from psychology, engineering, business, and environment.

RAW is a Creative Youth Development nonprofit organization rooted in art therapy, Jenkins said. RAW has five art studios, a digital film program, and a college access and career readiness program. It was established in 1988 and has been in Lynn for 28 years.

“Thousands of children have passed through our doors,” Jenkins said.

Graduates said that in many ways, RAW transformed them into who they are today and helped them find their own voice and realize that their voice matters. RAW also helped children understand what they wanted to do in their lives and what suited them.

“This program has helped me become more myself and understand my life path and learn that it’s not necessary to stick to something forever, and that it’s okay to change and move around, because that’s how you find what’s right for you, not what’s just ok,” Ana Lambiase said.

After receiving their brushes at the Senior Brush Ceremony, designed to bring graduates together with their families and mentors, students will move on to the next stage of their lives.

“The next step is a different path for all of you,” said Coryn Matheison, project launch coordinator.

Community Engagement Manager Kaitlyn Farmer said that being a former RAW student herself, she knew it was a very special community, and that’s why she’s still around today.

“A lot of you are breaking down barriers,” Farmer said.

For those who also want to break down barriers, RAW is currently offering open registration for its summer lineup and it’s all free. For more information, please visit https://www.rawartworks.org.

Oksana Kotkina can be contacted at [email protected]

Christopher S. Washington