Tonawanda News

Features

October 15, 2012

HAYNES: Planting the seed

Tonawanda News — My entire life was changed by a single moment back in 1998.

One decision I made during my junior year of high school in Texas started me down a path that led me 1,400 miles away to Buffalo to a school I had never heard of, a major I had previously never considered, a passion I never thought possible and a career I love to this day.

On a whim, I had decided to sign up for a very attractive Advanced Placement art history class that offered plenty of field trip opportunities and even a small scholarship should I earn a 4 or a 5 on the end-of-term AP exam.

The first thing most people ask me when they find out I’m originally from Texas is “How’d you end up in Buffalo?” It was a scholarship application handed out in that AP class for the Canisius College art history department that did it.

Canisius accepted me, gave me some money and I ended up majoring in art history. I later added a major in English with the idea of one day becoming an arts journalist, which, to a certain degree, I am now. 

I would not be sitting here, writing this column, had it not been for the existence of that art history class and all the other arts-related K-12 classes that molded me into a creative person — photography, band, journalism.

So what happens when K-12 schools start cutting funding to these programs due to budget woes? We’re talking about cuts all across the nation the past few years, but especially in our own backyard.

Mary Ellen Holler, an elementary art teacher in the North Tonawanda School District, recently told me about the impact some of these reductions have made. There are fewer teachers now than there were three or four years ago — three retiring teachers haven’t been replaced at the high school level, 2.5 at the middle school level and one at the elementary level. 

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