My name is CJ. I was a student at New Urban Arts. Now I’m a mentor and donor. I’m asking you to support New Urban Arts because youth from my background need a place where we can write on walls.
My entire life, I’ve lived in small apartments where we didn’t have lots of space. I couldn’t write on the walls because we didn’t own our home. I could never make noise because I couldn’t wake up my neighbors.
In primary school, I got in trouble all the time for talking when I wasn’t supposed to talk, writing when I wasn’t supposed to write, or being where I wasn’t supposed to be. In high school, that feeling increased tenfold.
Then I found New Urban Arts—a space where anything I was doing was what I was supposed to be doing, a space where I was allowed to play and ask questions.
The things you learn in that kind of space stay with you.
I asked one of my mentors at New Urban Arts a question he couldn’t answer. “I don’t know,” he said. “Want to go look it up together?” It was the first time I saw adulthood as a state of learning, not a state of perfection. It made adulthood seem real and accessible. It made high school, and all the decisions I had to make, a lot less scary.
I overheard a mentor talking to someone about me. She was re-telling something I told her; she said I had challenged her and changed her thinking. It was the first time I heard an adult talk about me with admiration. It made me feel useful.
When you’re a young person growing up in small apartments, it is so rare to find a place that says, “you deserve freedom.” Freedom to write on walls, ask questions and challenge adults. When you find that place, you want to make sure it’s there for others like you.
That’s why I now volunteer as a mentor here. That’s why I give what I can to the annual campaign. And it’s why I’m asking you give as well.