Jennifer Zheng is a 12th grader at Baltimore Polytechnic High School and is also a member of the Bmore Youth Arts Advocacy Council. This council, established by Arts Every Day under the guidance of Baltimore Arts Education Initiative Manager Sheena Morrison, consists of passionate students who feel that the arts are essential in our schools. Over the course of this month, we will be highlighting a few statements from these youth members starting with Miss Zheng. See what she has to share below:
According to the CDC, the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues among children aged 3 to 17 are anxiety at 7.1%, approximately 4.4 million and depression at 3.2%, approximately 1.9 million. Like most students and teens, I have suffered from great feelings of anxiety or other mental issues that can make us feel like there is no escape from this stressful period of time and no better future. Instead of lowering the rates, they have increased over the years from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011-2012.
In high school, most students get to take only a year of the arts without much of a choice: theatre, fine arts, or music, most of which wasn’t of the quality expected to benefit students due to lack of funding, teachers, or supplies. I was lucky to have a wonderful arts teacher for my last two years of school, but for those who need an outlet in the arts, it’s not as easy. I want the community including parents, teachers, decision-makers, and even other students to understand arts should not be a privilege; it should be a right and a resource to help us grow and cope. I have included a poem and art piece called “Societal Pressures” to show how the arts have helped and what are some of the horrible things I hear that lead to my need for the arts as an outlet.
They ask if I’m ok, but what can I say?
I open my mouth try to make a sound,
But there’s no noise.
Nothing but tears streaming down my face.
Nothing but the fast beating of my uncontrollable heart.
Nothing but my sweat glands seemingly working overtime.
But… at my lowest point and darkest time,
When words can not express how I feel,
when I’m scared of speaking from my heart,
when I don’t even know what I want to say,
art looked at me, it smiled, reached out it’s hand,
and said, “I will help you.
Use me to show them,
show them what you feel,
what you think,
what you want,
what you need,
but most importantly,
who you are”