Take 5 with Cassandra Town

Did you know that it takes only 7 or 8 personal connections to catch a legislator’s attention? Our individual efforts have a collective impact! Making your voice heard counts and here’s an example of a time when this really worked.

Two years ago, just as the reporting on the arts assessments (CBPAs) became mandatory, a bill was introduced in the state legislature to suspend the district “implementation verification.” If passed, it would have likely put an end to the assessments themselves, removing the reporting requirement that had been hard won in 2004. In an effort to remove the CBPA suspension from the bill, a coalition of arts education supporters rallied to voice their resistance through calls, emails and letters to the bill’s sponsors.

ArtsEd Washington member Cassandra Town was one of those who stepped forward to write a letter in opposition to the legislation. Because of her and other arts education supporters’ collective efforts, the suspension of the arts assessments was dropped from the bill. In addition to saving the arts reporting requirements, our efforts also saved the assessments in health and fitness, as well as social studies.

We asked Cassandra to talk about why she got involved:

1. What inspires your passion around arts education?

I believe people need more art and creativity in their everyday lives. Today, more than ever before, kids are receiving less instruction in the arts. Our public education system is failing to provide the education they deserve – one that includes the arts. I’d like to help change that, not just for today for my kids, but for the future of all children. I cannot imagine a world without art and creativity.

2. Had you ever participated in advocacy efforts prior to this experience?

I had never before written to a legislator; so of course I was nervous. Once I was finished, and my letter sent, it felt amazing! It was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments in life and I felt like I accomplished something really important.

3. How did the efforts of ArtsEd Washington catalyze you to take action?

ArtsEd Washington makes it simple to get involved and stay involved. Not only is their website full of resources and information, but their “action alert” email communications are clear, concise, and walk you through the process of how to take action. The bulleted information in these “action alerts” makes it easy for the lay-person to compose a letter in their own words, based on their own experiences, and using statistical data from a trusted source.

4. What were your lessons learned from this experience?

I learned many things from this experience; some of the most important are:

  • Legislators are just people. They are not mind readers. They can’t represent our needs if they don’t know about them. You have to speak up and tell them.
  • Because I had such a positive experience, I want to learn more about advocacy and what I can do to help advance arts education in our schools.
  • ArtsEd Washington is a true partner in arts education advocacy. Before I heard of ArtsEd Washington, I used to spend hours scouring the internet for relevant arts education facts and information for Washington State. I no longer have to do that. Now, I simply visit ArtsEd Washington’s website. Like the “action alert” emails, the tools and information on their website user friendly, clear, and concise.

5. What tips can you share with arts education supporters that could help them in their own advocacy efforts?

Don’t wait. Get started today. Do one small thing every day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak out for what you are most passionate about – YOU can make a difference.

Cassandra Town is the president of The Robert B. McMillen Foundation, mom to three school-aged children, and lives in Cle Elum, WA.

Share your inspirational arts education or arts advocacy story with us! Where have you seen the arts change outcomes for a student? How has your personal engagement made a difference in a policy or budget issue? What arts teacher changed your life?  Let us know. Your submission may be selected for a future Take 5 member profile!

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