Shifting Perspective at Creative Arts Charter School

Hello, everyone! My name is Tina Celani and I am studying Communication at the University of San Francisco (USF). I completed around forty hours of service work with eighth grade students at Creative Arts Charter School for Generation Citizen, and my experience at this school was life-changing not only for me, but for my students as well.  I discovered a passion for helping students engage in civic action, and simultaneously developed my own civic skills.

My class identified violence, specifically gun violence, at the nearby Kimbell Park as a problem in their local community, and – after research and discussion – agreed that increasing police presence at the park could be a possible solution. In order to accomplish this goal, they reached out to the local San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Captain, the San Francisco Chief of Police, an SFPD officer assigned to be the liaison between Creative Arts and the SFPD, and they also contacted London Breed, their District Supervisor. They believed that drafting and signing a petition to present to the Captain, writing letters to and meeting with the SFPD liaison, and meeting with the San Francisco Chief of Police and London Breed would be beneficial to accomplish their goal. Other tactics included holding an assembly and collecting information from their peers on this issue through a survey. The students are currently completing these tactics and were able to present their work at Civics Day in Oakland City Hall, where they received the “Systemic Impact” award.

It was so exciting to see my eighth grade students develop a sense of agency and a passion to create long-lasting change within their community over the course of just a few months. At the beginning of the semester, I asked my students to move to a designated corner of the classroom depending on their level of agreement with the statement, “I believe I can make a difference in my community.” The majority of my students immediately walked to the corner of the room labeled “Strongly Disagree” and explained that real change only occurs at the federal level and “only through Obama.” My students’ perspective has changed over the last few months, and it has been amazing to see their understanding shift from solely viewing political change on the national level to believing that they can have an influential meeting with their local District Supervisor to discuss increasing police presence in their nearby Kimbell Park.

Working with Generation Citizen taught me to believe in the power of change and inspired me to become an activist on a local level.  After looking at my own community, I found that there were problems at my own college campus – specifically, with my college’s food management company in terms of food pricing and quality. While helping my Creative Art students with their project, I also found myself getting politically involved on campus by helping to organize a boycott of the food management company and creating a petition for USF students to sign to give to our college’s Office of Business and Finance. My Generation Citizen experience made me believe that I was capable of change and of helping others mobilize and organize to make a difference in their community.  I look forward to continuing my experience with GC next semester as the Executive Director for the new USF chapter of Generation Citizen.


Cover picture of Tina with her students and a visiting guest speaker, Jennifer Granucci from the San Francisco Police Department.

Generation Citizen is a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 tax exempt organization which does not endorse candidates; our goal is to engage our staff, participants, and stakeholders in political and civic action on issues that matter to them personally and in their communities. The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the writer alone and do not reflect the opinions of Generation Citizen.