Water Street Glassworks is casting a blazing fire under Benton Harbor youth. Nearly three dozen teens attend FIRED UP! afterschool glass class where they design holiday ornaments, glasswork items, and other “beyond-their-years” works. The program’s curriculum was conceived to boost youthful spirits and reinforce confidence.
Michigan Nightlight: Tell us briefly about your program in terms of it purpose and who it serves.
FIRED UP! Program Coordinator May Schultz-Reed:
Water Street Glassworks is an art school. We teach stained glass blowing, flame working, and fused glass here to children and adults. With our FIRED UP! Program, we have 27 students aged twelve to 18 who come to class here for two and a half hours every week to work with glass.
What really differentiates this program?
It’s glass. The one thing that makes our art program so unique is that we use glass as our medium. Glass is very intimidating to most people because it is an unusual medium. It isn’t familiar, like drawing, painting with watercolors, or working with
Glass is very intimidating to most people because it is an unusual medium.
ceramics and textiles can be. It is very different.
What are the keys to success for your program?
The biggest key to success in our FIRED UP! program is teamwork – cooperation between our kids, their parents, the Water Street staff, and the art school is important.
Our goal is for the children to achieve success. Not only in our art program, but in all facets of their lives.
What existing challenges remain with this program and how do you plan to
Funding is the biggest challenge that we face. We have 27 kids enrolled, and that’s ten more than we had last year, which is great. We have a cap of 30 kids, but if we had more funding, had more grants and more benefactors to pay our students’ scholarships, we could take up to 50 kids every school year. We have the physical space to do that, but it will take more
...they love coming to class, they love being at Water Street Glassworks, and they love what they learn here.
money. It costs $1,800 year for each student to participate in these classes.
We are looking for more methods of fundraising and for more ways to reach out and make sure that the community is aware of our program. We are contacting more service organizations and benefactors now to let the public know who we are and what we need.
It is mandatory that students and their parents make a serious commitment to FIRED UP! How do you keep teens engaged for long periods of time?
We retain our students because, first of all, they don’t want to leave. And that’s because they love coming to class, they love being at Water Street Glassworks, and they love what they learn here. We all encourage each student to do their best and go out of our way to praise them for their accomplishments.
What are people in your program most inspired by?
It’s the changes and the maturity that we, along with their parents, see in the students as they progress. Students are inspired by their own personal growth in the areas of respect, responsibilities, and life skills that they develop along the way. And by the production -- the glasswork art that these students keep making. Their creativity is amazing.