Even though FutureSelf will shut down its operations by year's end, its legacy will live on in the people it served. When we asked executive director Abby Laine Sienkiewicz last week about the impact FutureSelf had on our community, she referred us to some of the young men and women with whom she worked.
Here are some thoughts from one participant, Michael Diaz-Rivera, supplied by Sienkiewicz:
Tell me about some of the skills you gained through FutureSelf.
Everything. I became a better artist. But in everyday situations, I became a better people person. I became a better leader after I got the supervisor job and worked on my communication. I worked within groups that maybe I’m not comfortable with. What I learned most about, is that everyone has a story. Everyone has something to bring. Everyone has something to offer.
What did FutureSelf provide for you in terms of art education?
I never had art in public school. Now I have so many friends that are in art. I think that if someone would have been there to get me scheduled into an art class, who knows where I would be now. I feel like it’s … in the public schools, it’s a little more stereotypical. If someone is going to be a part of an art program, they’re gonna look for artsy-type people. Me, I looked like just another street kid. I think it was easy for my teachers to not really want to mess with me. So I’ve never had any classes. I felt like it was never reached out to me. I never met anyone who’d give me an interest in art. So FutureSelf picked up that slack.
As far as classes, there was no way I’d have been able to afford the workshops. Everything was always free for me, even the camping trip. I never had to pay for anything. Selling art was another big thing for me that made me feel like I was a legit artist. The first piece I sold was a medicine cabinet. I wish I would have bought it myself. That piece was such as struggle for me. I was new in FutureSelf and I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it. I feel like a lot of the group was mentoring me through that whole project. There were countless people I asked advice from. And they pushed me in the right way. Even though we’d have the teaching artist here, I feel like I learned more from the students from working with them, working on their projects, and bouncing ideas off each other.
How would you be different without FutureSelf?
I don’t want to get too spiritual about it, but I feel like it was the grace of God that I ran into FutureSelf. If I didn’t, I’d probably still be getting in trouble. Right when I got in, I was having trouble with school. I didn’t know where I was going. I was running with the wrong crowd. By being in FutureSelf, I got new friends to be around. I got new hobbies. I got a new outlook. What FutureSelf did for me, one of my main aspirations is to be able to do that for someone else. I think if they didn’t give me that chance, I wouldn’t be in the same frame of mind that I’m in today.