With pens in hand, students began writing their own tales, chuckling as their plots thickened. A room away, another group designed their own cartoon characters while others explored the power of animation.
All of them imagining where this could take them some day—a published writer, a Disney animator, or a sports broadcaster.
The possibilities seemed limitless for the nearly 1,500 students at the 2018 Young Authors YouthArtists (YAYA) Conference in May at the College of Saint Benedict. Resource Training and Solutions convened 52 creative professionals to present for this annual event that exposes third through sixth graders in central Minnesota to a multitude of writing and illustrating activities. This year’s event engaged students from 53 schools in specialty breakout sessions covering a variety of creative fields from journalism, cartooning and animation to performance arts, song writing, and publishing.
Keynote Leah Olsen helped the students envision where their creative passions could take them. A professional sports broadcaster and founder of “Rethink the Win,” Leah inspired students with her message.
Here’s a look at the conference from the perspectives of a student, her mom, and a teacher.
Hattie Dietz- Student St. Francis Xavier School, Sartell
When working on a drawing or writing in her journal, Hattie Dietz now knows a secret tip that helps her come up with exceptional ideas. “When you have an idea, stick with it, keep adding on to it, and see where it goes,” she says. It’s a new way of thinking that she learned as a fifth grader attending YAYA.
When she first considered going to the conference, she thought the day might be boring—but during the day, quickly changed her mind.“It was really fun!” she said.
While she enjoyed all of her sessions, she has a definite favorite: the “Bring Your Cartoons to Life” session because she got to draw.
At YAYA, she had an entire day to be creative and try new ways to express herself. Besides that, she felt comfortable navigating the college campus with her friends at YAYA, and that freedom builds her confidence. She says she would definitely attend YAYA again, and encourages her friends to do the same.
Judy Broekemeier- Retired teacher, Mora Schools, Presenter at YAYA
Judy Broekemeier has always loved working with students in a creative capacity as an art teacher, but when she attended her first YAYA conference as a chaperone and saw how excited and engaged the students became during their sessions, she just knew she needed to be a part of the event by sharing her own knowledge within a teaching role.
She began presenting on prehistoric rock artists, petroglyphs, and pictographs. In her sessions, students tell their own stories by painting symbols on rocks that depict events in their lives or communicate something about themselves as people. “There’s just something special about the material,” Broekemeier says. Students are always interested in telling personal stories on material other than paper.
“In my session, kids enjoy the varied media and having time to express themselves,” she says “They make connections to relevant symbols in their world.” Broekemeier feels the experiences students have at YAYA are vital because they expand classroom learning and expose participants to new ways of thinking. “YAYA is an amazing experience for students, presenters, volunteers, and staff. The day is a great opportunity for all of us.
”Broekemeier feels the experiences students have at YAYA are vital because they expand classroom learning and expose participants to new ways of thinking. “YAYA is an amazing experience for students, presenters, volunteers, and staff. The day is a great opportunity for all of us.”
Trina Dietz- Chaperone and parent, St. Francis Xavier School, Sartell
After sending her oldest child to YAYA, Trina Dietz wanted to experience the conference herself. She joined her fifth grade daughter’s class to see the event close up.
“I think good communication skills are so important, and I appreciate that kids who are good at art and writing ‘get to belong’ at YAYA,” says Dietz, a mother of three and communications professional from Sartell.
Dietz also says she was impressed by how well organized the conference was. Chaperones may attend breakout sessions with students, but Dietz felt very at ease in allowing students to get to their sessions on their own. “I never thought I’d be so comfortable just letting them go, even though they were on a college campus, but I was because everything was organized.
”At the end of the day, Dietz knew her daughter and class learned a lot as they excitedly talked about the day and drew in their journals on the bus ride back to Sartell. “YAYA clearly energized their passion,”she says.“I think good communication skills are so important, and I appreciate that kids who are good at art and writing ‘get to belong’ at YAYA,” says Dietz, a mother of three and communications professional.