"Being involved in school is a lot of fun," Emily said.
Emily is among teenage artists and musicians who will showcase their talents Saturday at the 31st annual Springfield Schools Foundation dinner. Students in art programs and bands throughout the city will be on hand at the foundation's most lucrative fundraiser.
Both foundation members and teachers say student involvement shows the community the benefit of art and music resources.
Art students created jewelry, furniture and paintings, among other pieces, for an art auction. Proceeds go directly back to art classes and clubs for new supplies and education opportunities. In 2012, students raised $2,700.
At Southeast, the money helps students in the art club pay for a June trip to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University. The trip allows students who rarely leave Springfield to experience another city, said senior Tyler Pick-ford, who joined art club his freshman year.
"(Art) shows who an individual is," said Tyler, who sees the similarities between art and his intended major: engineering.
Students can use art as an outlet, said junior Abigail Perrero.
"You get time to sort of think and let out ideas in a way that we don't normally get to at school," Abigail said.
The auction provides feedback about what kind of art people will buy, she said.
"It's kind of like an opportune time to showcase the student work, and that allows us then to kind of explain that art is a viable career. I think (the auction) gives the community a reason to say this is why it's important," said Lisa Long, visual art teacher and sponsor of the art club at Southeast. "Being exposed to that provides them with a bank of experiences that they can draw from later in life."
Students at Springfield High School say their art education has been vital to their success. Senior Alaina Beaird is auctioning jewelry she made.
"People don't necessarily think of jewelry as a conventional form of art, and I want to show how creative and beautiful metals can be," said Alaina, who plans to major in art and English at college.
Creative education is undervalued, she said.
"It is important for students to be able to have a creative outlet. Not only does it help kids to express themselves, but it also helps them to use a part of their brain that academics alone doesn't completely exercise," Alaina said.
Cindy Huffman, a visual arts educator at Springfield High, said that when they are "in a fine arts situation, students learn to draw from their feelings, experiences and life journeys, which is therapeutic itself. Students are exposed to so many outside pressures, including grades, keeping up with parental expectations, colleges, extra-curricular activities and peer relationships. Art is sometimes the only outlet that students have."
Students from the Lawrence Education Center also created art for the auction. The center runs the art program like a club, said Lawrence principal Kathi Lee.
Participants learn to lay bile, fuse glass in kilns and sew. They can opt for lessons that interest them, many of which include marketable skills.
"Many times students find out that they are very artsy' and didn't realize that they might enjoy this part of education," Lee said.
Dinner (and) music Through the foundation, teachers throughout the district apply for grants to improve technology, boost classroom materials such as books, and support the cost of field trips. The foundation has provided iPads and new technologies for District 186 classrooms. For this school year, the foundation raised $50,000, said Jen Miller, foundation president The foundation is able to provide the district with things students wouldn't otherwise have access to, said Paul Wappel, communications chair for the foundation.
"We know things are very tight, obviously very challenging in this day and age," tie said.
Fine art programs are almost always the first areas cut during financial crisis, said Lanphier High School art teachers Kristen lurgens and Les Boston. The community's continued support is vital to keep the arts alive in Springfield schools, they said.
Music students also have a chance to shine Saturday. Southeast band director Tom Philbrick is bringing a seven-person jazz combo to perform Saturday.
"For me, it's anything that gets the kids playing in the community," he said about the opportunity for his students.
Strong high school and middle school music programs start with solid elementary courses, said Michele DeLong, music teacher at Hazel Dell and Matheny-Withrow Elementary Schools. Ten Hazel Dell musicians in grades 3-5 will perform Saturday during dinner.
DeLong said it's important to build strong music classes starting early in students' careers.
With help from the foundation, DeLong purchased student-sized xylophones so her students could experience rhythm, harmonies and melodies.
"Having a strong music program at the elementary program is going to help us have strong music programs at (the) elementary schools and the high schools," DeLong said. "The arts are critical to the success of our schools. I always hope that when my students leave the elementary school, they're excited and passionate about music."
Saturday's event also pairs culinary art students with professional chefs.
"Students can increase and/or practice their time management skills, as well as the workplace skills of teamwork, respect, cooperation, communication, productivity, professional appearance and organizational skills," said Debbie Burtle, culinary arts instructor at the Capital Area Career Center. "The experience also allows the foundation members, as well as other community members attending, to become better acquainted with students that have chosen to begin their career skills at the Career Center and can showcase the skills that the students have already accomplished."