By Matthew Ryan Miramontes – 11th Grade, Cornell High School
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can offer with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation, but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.”
Expression is the one way to stay true to yourself and expose who you really are without following boundaries or becoming a follower. As humans, we learn every day and achieve uniqueness through expressing ourselves. One way to express yourself is to create with others: to share ideas and work with different opinions.
The Wilkinsburg TIGERS summer camp teaches students to create, express themselves, and have fun while learning the fundamentals of clay work, radio broadcasting and music creation. The six-week camp at Wilkinsburg Junior/Senior High School runs Monday through Thursday from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. Students in 7th to 10th grade in classes of 10 to 20 students learn about many subjects in 90 minute increments. Through a government grant, students can attend TIGERS at no cost.
I first attended Art Expression, an arts class which taught students how to make models of their spirit animals out of clay. Students created many types of animals, including snakes, tigers, bears, butterflies, sharks, and even a lobster.
The spirit animals were then put inside a small paper forest to simulate the animals working and living together. The trees of the forest were made of brightly colored paper and decorated with elaborate details which illustrated vegetation.
I spoke to Tiona, a sixteen year old rising sophomore at Wilkinsburg High School, and she had nothing but good things to say about the camp. “This is a great way to learn and experience. It gives me a chance to meet new people and to have a great time while doing it.”
In the second class, which was taught by Saturday Light Brigade Radio Productions, the students learned how to make their own commercials for businesses or products using radio equipment. The commercials had to be at least 30 seconds long and include either the price of the product of the location of the business. Students also wrote haikus and answered trivia questions about Pittsburgh, history, and pop culture. They loved answering questions about the Three Rivers, Abraham Lincoln, and even original members of 80’s and 90’s hip hop groups.
The final class of the day was Legacy of the Arts, an African Drumming class run by private tutors that reside in Wilkinsburg. The class taught about African culture from Haiti, including a dance called the Yanvalou, which older tribes used for communication and celebration. Students learned about the basics of drumming and how to play different beats which relay messages from tribe to tribe.
I spoke to Drakir, a future junior high student, and he explained, “The class is fun and gives you a chance to dance and express yourself. This is my first year in the summer camp and everyone makes me feel welcome and accepted.”
Students are planning a carnival at the end of camp for friends and family to showcase what they have learned throughout the past six weeks.
Wilkinsburg TIGERS is founded in STEAM-based learning, meaning that students take classes in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. This approach allows for art classes to be incorporated into their everyday learning. In a fun and creative environment, students are encouraged to think outside of the box and utilize skills from different subject areas. STEAM Learning encourages students to see failure as a building block, rather than a stopping point.
Every student I talked with at Wilkinsburg TIGERS had great things to say about the camps and classes. They explained that the classes have opened their eyes to learning outside of a standard classroom. Wilkinsburg School District wants to extend the grant for another year so that TIGERS can continue for future students.
Expression is something that can make us stand out, but in the end we all stand together. As Emerson said, insist on yourself, and never imitate because being different is what leads a generation.
Matthew Ryan Miramontes is an 11th grader in Cornell High School. He resides in Neville Island. Matthew writes for his school newspaper and wants to write as a journalist for a major magazine one day. He is interested in music and movies.