I like SAY Sí because when I walk in the door, I feel normal.” “No one judges me at SAY Sí.” I like being able to express myself using different mediums in art.” “It’s so much fun, and I have made lasting friendships there.” “I like the technical training.”
These were quotes resonating from my morning carpool with my daughter, Laura, a 10th grader at the North East School of the Arts, and her classmate and neighborhood friend, Bygoe Zubiate, a 10th grader at the International School of the Americas. Both girls have attended the SAY Sí art program since middle school and both girls are excited to continue their art training in the program. They liken the program to their sport of choice. And, just like any extracurricular, their dedication to the arts through SAY Sí is evident in their schedules. As part of the curriculum, students must log at least eight hours per week, generally completed after school and on Saturdays. It’s a demanding schedule on top of school work and other commitments, but talk to any SAY Sí student, and the first thing they will tell you is that, if they could, they would spend even more time there.
The program serves students from 6th through 12th grades, including children in the King William/Lavaca neighborhood. High school SAY Sí students choose a “major” during their freshman year: Visual, Media or Theater. Starting in 6th grade, students may attend the Working Artist and Mentors Program (better known as WAM in the SAY Sí lexicon) every Saturday. The WAM program offers high school students an opportunity to serve as mentors for the middle schoolers. Both programs offer students the ability to create works using different materials and techniques.
Each season, the students exhibit their works at an art opening. Pieces can be purchased by the public and the proceeds of the sales are shared with the student upfront, with a portion retained in the student’s college fund to be given to the student upon completion of the program. It’s just one incentive to stay in the program through graduation. And, it seems to work: SAY Sí boasts a 100% college acceptance rate for its high school students.
SAY Sí (San Antonio Youth Sí) has provided its unique blend of multidisciplinary arts education since 1994. It started with a great idea from King William resident Mike Schroeder and twelve students in a space in the Blue Star Arts Complex, with funding from the King William Association. It has blossomed into one of the country’s premier after school education programs. Today, SAY Sí serves over 175 students from over 80 schools in its 20,000+ square feet of gallery and studio space. A lot has changed from the early days at Blue Star, but one aspect remains the same: no matter where the students come from, at SAY Sí they’re artists.
To learn more about the program or to see a list of upcoming events, go to www.saysi.org.
- Maureen Strauss Gonima