Hello, my name is Ismael Ramirez Hernandez. I am currently a third year student at Antioch College majoring in media arts. My goal is to use my talents and skills as a media arts major to help give a platform to underrepresented communities as we push towards social change. I am inspired by my experiences being a queer Mexican student growing up in the United States. This winter I had the opportunity to co-op at the Rooftop Academy’s Children’s After School Arts (CASA) program in San Francisco who excitingly has a similar philosophy of using art as a vehicle for social change.
Working with younger kids is something I had not thought about until my co-op adviser informed me about CASA and all the fantastic things going on there that aligned with my vision. After an interview with the director I was convinced that this would be a wonderful experience for me to take as I work towards my goals of using my art to make a difference. Being at CASA has given me the opportunity to travel and explore a side of the country that I previously did not know and submerge myself in a new, unique cultural setting. I have met a lot of amazing individuals interning here who are using their talents to pave changes for queer people of color that have inspired me and motivated me as I finalize my co-op and prepare for spring quarter.
My average workday at CASA spanned from around 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. I would take public transportation from the Outer Richmond district to Twin Peaks where the school was located everyday which was a 40 minute to an hour commute; when you live in such a gorgeous city though, every ride provides you with scenic views of the San Francisco hills and the gorgeous architecture that aligns them! I had the opportunity to intern as a teacher’s assistant helping with both the third and sixth graders who fall under “Team Six.” My favorite part of the day here was when I would walk on to campus and could immediately sense the energy shifting in the air with all the happy smiling kids running around campus.
I came in during a very busy week in which everyone was working very hard to put together one of the annual CASA plays that focuses on a different theme pertaining to social justice every year. Last year’s theme for example was focused on gentrification in San Francisco where there is a huge socio-economic gap between the rich and poor. This year’s play was organized by one of our amazing directors, Ammo, who had the kids having productive conversations about gender and sexuality. For the adult opening night, some of the teachers even performed in drag as drag queens and kings and put together a very entertaining show for the parents who were proud to know that such talented individuals look after their kids. CASA was truly an empowering, radical place to be at.
Perhaps one of the most important things that I learned about myself while interning at CASA is that I really enjoy working with children. It was a very rewarding experience to be able to have a positive influence on these kids. I have learned how to be more understanding and empathetic myself and have paid more attention to being a more effective communicator. As an artist, it was wonderful to be able to engage the students using something I love and being able to see how even one small project can teach them lessons that will hopefully help guide them in a positive direction as they continue to develop. I am very grateful to have had this life changing experience.