By Kristin Arzt

Last Monday, Kasa Du, age 13, stepped into The Crucible’s 56,000-square-foot facility for the first time for her first day of Youth Camps. The Crucible is the largest industrial arts nonprofit in the county, and for the first time ever, it offered five different youth camps during Spring Break completely free, specifically for Oakland youth who did not have the financial resources necessary to participate.

For Kasa Du, coming to The Crucible was eye-opening for a number of reasons. “I didn’t even know that teaching art was a job that you get paid to do,” she told us. “I want to work here one day!” Kasa Du enrolled in both Youth Blacksmithing and Youth Exploration in Jewelry, and while Blacksmithing was a little hot for her taste, she still had fun forging a hook, bracelet, and bottle opener out of steel and rebar.

Kasa Du was one of 42 students who participated in The Crucible’s Youth Camps completely free. The three-day free youth camps, coupled with youth scholarship spots in our weeklong youth camps, made The Crucible’s 2019 youth spring camps the most accessible in Crucible history.

In Clay Critters, Kasa Du’s brother, Ku Rah, explored basic science concepts and practiced problem solving when learning how to handle clay. “You take your thumb and put it in the clay and make air inside, so it doesn’t explode,” the eight-year-old explained, adding assuredly, “My mug won’t explode.”

Research supported by the National Endowment for the Arts found that art-related education can significantly increase test scores. When comparing students’ standardized test scores from before art classes with those taken afterwards, a research team at University of Arkansas found the class that attended art classes’ scores rose by 12.4%.

“This has definitely been my favorite Spring Break!” –Hla Dah, age 8

The teachers are so nice here. I feel so supported.” –Ku Rah, age 11

“I feel so blessed because you all accepted me and my siblings to come here.” -Kasa Du, age 13

Three of Kasa Du’s five siblings spent an educational week exploring creativity, getting validation and encouragement from their teachers and support from their peers—a welcome relief for their mom, Pa Wah. Born in Burma, Pa Wah fled at age 15 to Thailand. Eight years ago, she gained refugee status for her and her family and moved to Oakland.

“I work three jobs, and usually work during the day and night. So it can be tough to make ends meet,” Pa Wah told us. “I was so grateful that my kids had this opportunity, because otherwise they would have had to stay home over spring break.” With her children busy learning and creating at our youth camps, Pa Wah was able to spend the week completing her training to become a caterer.

“This has definitely been my favorite Spring Break!” Hla Dah, the youngest of Kasa Du’s five siblings, shared. “We don’t usually get to do many activities like this together,” she told us. “I definitely want to come back this summer. And when I’m older I want to take Neon, so I can work with color and do more soldering like I did in Extreme Gizmos.”

Kasa Du agrees. “This feels like home. I belong here. I feel so blessed because you all accepted me and my siblings to come here.”

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