On June 11, Town Hall audiences got a rare glimpse of the teenage perspective as five high school students from Rainier Scholars, a program that works to unlock academic potential and leadership skills of motivated students of color, inhabited the Great Hall stage and shared their thoughts on everything from U.S. foreign policy to curing cancer.
Each season, Town Hall chooses an Artist in Residence and a Scholar in Residence to inhabit the building, attend events at Town Hall, and share their findings with audiences. Program Director Stesha Brandon explained, “This season, we did things a little bit differently. I had worked with Rainier Scholars in the past and I was so impressed by the work that they do and the students there that I thought we would have many scholars this season.” So, she invited nine students from Rainier Scholars to serve as Town Hall’s Scholars in Residence—and their unique insights into Town Hall and its contributions to the community were illuminating.
Hilina Giday, who will be a senior next year, was riveted by a presentation called “Systems Biology in Cancers,” saying, “I can’t stress enough—I didn’t blink. What fascinated me about the event itself was that I was hearing people a couple of feet away from me talking about how they were probably going to cure cancer. The ability to physically be in that range was fascinating. It really opens your eyes to see someone who will probably change the world right in front of you.” She was so moved by the presentation that she went to Town Hall’s website and posted a thoughtful 350-word reaction to the information she learned, claiming that the interactive lecture by a panel of experts “beats any Biology class by a long shot.”
Alicia Finney had a similar experience at a lecture by UCLA Professor Jared Diamond. “When I was really little, I read a book about Lucy, who was the first primate to walk on two legs. When he [Jared Diamond] started talking about that same topic—about Lucy—my love for learning started to come back. I realized that Town Hall hosts events like these so that you’re thinking about things that you don’t normally think about, and it rekindles that pure love for learning.”
They all shared powerful individual experiences, but noted that most of the events shared one similarity: “It was all old people in the audience,” Feven Mckonnen said, as the audience chuckled. “Most of the Town Hall events I went to, the speakers were talking about high school kids. They were talking about our generation, and how this generation is going to do great things, and yet, I was the only person my age there. I think it’s important for kids like us—and especially students of color—to know the expectations adults have for us. Because how are we supposed to meet them if we have no idea what they are?”
If you have young people in your life, we encourage you to bring them to events at Town Hall! (We even offer free and discounted tickets through the Teen Tix program.) “Going to these events gives us a leap forward,” Feven added.
Artist in Residence Tomo Nakayama, a seasoned musician who recorded a new album at Town Hall during his residency, gave a bit of sage advice to the students: “When you grow up and you’re out of school, you look everywhere for opportunities to learn. Town Hall is great for that.”
Town Hall is grateful to A&P for sponsoring the Town Hall residencies and to Capitol Cider for generously providing special sponsorship support for the Artist in Residence program. If you’re interested in supporting Town Hall’s In Residence program, contact Kevin Malgesini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 652-4255, ext. 34.