Students Explore Self-Empowerment During OXY Summer Academy

Exploring social justice through the arts isn’t new – but for GEAR UP students, this summer’s inaugural Occidental College Academy was an opportunity to elevate their voices and feel empowered to discuss and explore the societal issues that matter to them.

Supported by professors from the private liberal arts college and facilitators from its Supporting Youth of Color program, sophomores and juniors experienced college life, engaged in meaningful conversations surrounding identity and social justice, and learned how to express themselves through art in a safe space during OXY’s two-week hybrid program.

The program aimed at immersing students in a welcoming environment in which they could foster a sense of community and promote self-awareness, problem-solving, goal setting and self-accountability, among other characteristics that will enable them to thrive personally and academically.

“It wasn’t just putting paint on a canvas or just drawing. It was about what’s the message and how we connect to it. We talked a lot about individuality, how it connects to our community, changes we wanted to see and what emotions we felt.”

David Miguel, a junior at Roybal Learning Center

Students showcased their art pieces and celebrated their growth during a culminating ceremony.

“They teach you different ways to produce art and they talk about things our communities are refusing to point out,” Wisdom Erhabor, a sophomore at Panorama High School, said. “They help us let our voices, our mind and our heart out into our art. It’s great. It’s amazing. I needed this.”

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