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High School Students Unveiled Talents During 2023 Fuego Youth Leadership Reception

By Cathy Niland | 08.22.2023

On Thursday, July 28, eight high school students gathered on the main floor of The Crucible, buzzing with excitement and nerves. In just a few short hours their guests would arrive and the show would begin. But first, our 2023 Fuego Youth Leadership cohort enjoyed their final moments as a hard-working group of friends by noshing on pizza and holding an impromptu sing-a-long. 

Each summer, 8-15 high school students spend four weeks building new industrial art skills while working with a dedicated mentor to create a final project. Students also develop leadership skills by working as paid Teaching Assistants during Youth Summer Camps.

fuego reception 2023
Fuego Youth Leadership Coordinator, Nico Chen, kicks off the reception with an opening speech.

For many high school students, it would be hard to imagine trading four weeks of summer vacation for long hours in the studio. But not for our Fuego Youth Leaders. Many participants have described the program as “challenging”, but also find incredible satisfaction, pride, and value in the work they accomplish.

17-year-old Gabe Carpio, a first-year Fuego Youth Leader in Jewelry, was working long hours leading up to the final days of the program. Still, he stayed motivated and invested in the process. He’d originally made different plans for summer 2023, but when offered a spot as a Fuego, he couldn’t turn it down. Gabe summed it up with one simple question. “How could I give up this opportunity?”

The Work Pays Off

At the conclusion of the four-week program, participants put on a culminating exhibition for family, friends, and community members, complete with a gallery display, speeches from second-year participants, and live demonstrations. For the first 45 minutes of the event, visitors wander the gallery, awestruck by the talent of our Fuego participants, as students pose for photos alongside their work, beaming with pride.

First-year Fuego Youth Leader, Sebastian Holland presented a series of delicate glass creatures and landscape features arranged in a whimsical scene. His inspiration for the piece came from a recent family trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where he learned about a local forest fire.

“They said this fire was very natural and it means the forest can grow. That’s when I had the idea to make a flower as the centerpiece and show the beauty of the whole thing.” In Sebastian’s piece, small glass flames danced around tiny characters, all perched atop a tree round.

Sebastian was also quick to note the ways in which the themes of beauty born from fire are present in both the inspiration for his project and in his personal journey with glass. In reference to both he said, “In the moment, it can be chaotic, but there is beauty in the process.”

Building Tomorrow’s Artistic Leaders

In what might have been the most nerve-wracking moment for our participants, our four second-year Fuego Youth Leaders, Ava Gronchowski, Christian Shinhoster, Lavender Chen, and Walter Yip, gave speeches on their growth over the past two summers.

Walter Yip, the group’s most prolific maker, shared his greatest lessons with the audience. “I learned that I should always power through my obstacles and not let the possibility of failure hinder me.” He added, “Community is the foundation for social connection, support, and collective progress. I learned that making art is not just about creating, but also about leadership and inspiring others.”

We can’t wait to see what our graduating Fuegos do next and look forward to hosting first-year participants again next year. See all the incredible work from our 2023 cohort in the gallery below.

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