An article in the local newspaper that threatened the elimination of general music classes and the scaling back of art and music programs for 6th and 7th graders prompted Susan Woda to take action to ensure access to arts education each semester for every child. Woda testified to the School Board that her desire to learn and excel in middle school was unchallenged in academic classes and that music programs changed her life and generated momentum for her to embrace excellence.
Her widely reported testimony was pivotal in the subsequent rejection of these proposals. Energized by this success, Woda began recruiting an informal network of hundreds of volunteers, known as ARTSupporters, to focus on three objectives – encourage children to try the arts, promote the benefits of arts education, and impact public policy regarding arts education.
Woda has instituted an annual music camp scholarship and music instrument recycling, funded by her own part-time jobs, which has directly impacted more than 850 children. She also developed the “3 C’s” – CARE, COMMIT, & COMMUNICATE – to provide a framework for arts education advocates to become activists. Pursuant to this effort, she identified thousands of others who CARE about arts education by attending arts events; she obtained a COMMITMENT from a dozen volunteers to participate in the speakers registry, which she organized and distributed to more than 300 civic organizations and schools; and she developed both a brochure and a Web site to COMMUNICATE the benefits of arts education.
Armed with a study that she conducted of arts education requirements nationwide, Woda initiated a proposal to add fine arts to Maryland’s undergraduate admission requirements. The enacted proposal will directly affect hundreds of thousands of college admissions, and ensure that arts classes continue to be offered in Maryland high schools. Additionally, Woda volunteered with Maryland’s K-16 Partnership, which developed “essential learner outcomes” for all Maryland students, today and in the future. She most recently contributed to the draft of the Texas Fine Arts Education Accord.
Since 1996, Woda has also helped high school students overturn a $10 fee for music classes, supported access to music education for kids with Williams Syndrome (a chromosome defect characterized by mental and physical handicaps and an amazing ability to learn, retain, perform and compose music), written articles, columns, and letters for publication, and served on a committee at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to raise money for their arts outreach and education programs. Now a student at the University of Texas, Woda volunteers with a community organization that helps to provide the disabled with access to the arts.
Susan Woda’s efforts have met strong opposition at many levels. Yet, she has successfully influenced dozens of decision-makers and earned recognition from Maryland’s Governor who cited her “leadership, vision, and commitment.” By volunteering thousands of hours to this cause, she has touched the lives of many children, both directly and indirectly, enhancing their future potential through her work to enrich their educational experience.