Meet Virginia Hammond, a high school senior who has spent the last three years serving on Crystal Bridges’ Teen Council. In this post, she reflects on her time, sharing her experiences with meetings, personal development and travel opportunities, and finding role models and mentors.
My name is Virginia Hammond, and I joined Crystal Bridges Teen Council three years ago, at the beginning of my sophomore year. It was mentioned to me in passing by my parents, and I looked into the idea. I’ve loved art since I was young, and had my eyes set on being an architect since 8th grade. I liked the idea of getting a little more involved in the museum and the art scene, but I never expected just how impactful of an experience it would be.
Teen Council started with just attending one meeting a week (and maybe skipping a week if I was busy). However, it grew quickly into a passion to learn, grow, and experience new things. I now go to every meeting and dedicate extra time to projects that I can help with. The meetings are filled with planning and organizing, but also education, art, and getting to know your fellow council members. Teen Council meetings rapidly became my favorite part of the week, and I began to look forward to our events more than anything.
I truly believe Teen Council has helped make me who I am today. Before I joined, I was a soft-spoken and insecure fifteen-year-old. The experiences I’ve gained at the museum have turned me into an incredibly outgoing, opinionated, and confident eighteen-year-old ready to speak her heart and lead others. The tight-knit community of the council has become the safe space that I needed to grow as a person. I’ve made mistakes in Teen Council. I’ve succeeded in Teen Council. They’ve seen it all from me, and yet I know it will always be a secure, forgiving space. It’s helped me explore my passions and grow stronger in presenting and speaking.
I was able to work on various projects and programs during my time. As an example, I put together a TEN event with a former teen leader, Camille, and present it to fellow teens. We are both interested in STEAM careers and love the idea of talking more about technological or mathematical concepts shown in art. Camille and I created a tour of art pieces that were made by people with backgrounds in architecture, engineering, and science. We were taught how to properly lead a tour and ask open questions to get discussion flowing. Overall, the experience was really incredible. I got to teach others more about my passion, and I learned a lot about leading museum discussion.
In November of 2018, Crystal Bridges paid for me to travel to Boston with my supervisor and one other representative from Teen Council to present and speak on behalf of the museum at a National Teen Council convening. Adi, my fellow representative, and I created a presentation to discuss what Teen Council does, who we are, and what we support. We discussed empowerment and inclusion for everyone, and how we create a safe space for visitors and fellow teenagers in our events. That incredible trip is just one of the countless opportunities Crystal Bridges has given me to learn and grow as a person.
Spending three days in Boston, I learned so much. I was able to attend presentations on education in museums, diversity, LGBTQIA+ representation, racial justice, and so much more. I’m in awe and filled with gratitude at the idea that Crystal Bridges made that trip possible for me. Being involved in Crystal Bridges has helped me learn more about art, especially architecture, and make connections for my future career.
Mentors and Role Models
It’s impossible to talk about the impact of Teen Council without mentioning Holly York. Holly is a lot of things: our supervisor, educator, leader, sure, but most importantly, she is our Teen Queen. She is the educator at the museum in charge of corralling Teen Council and working with us.
Holly is a major part of my incredible experience with Teen Council. She hired me as a paid intern–one of the Teen Council leaders–two years ago and took me under her wing. She’s given me so many opportunities and has become not only one of my biggest role models and mentors, but a friend, too. The responsibility and value that Holly has placed on me over the years has taught me so much. I can always count on Holly for a sense of leadership and help. I’m incredibly grateful to her for placing me in a position that helped me open up and become a stronger leader. She deserves a lot of the credit for my growth into a more independent and outspoken individual.
I think it’s really important to have people that guide you and ignite a passion in you for learning, and Holly is a significant guide and role model to me. She’s given me a place in the museum, and it’s become like a second home for me, and somewhere I am always learning new things and broadening my perspective.
The museum is a substantial part of my life, and it’s taught me more than I can describe in one short blog post. The council has made me more confident in presenting, they’ve educated me, and they’ve helped me make connections with role models and guides that will continue to help and inspire me long after I leave the council. I guarantee that I would be an entirely different person without the opportunities for knowledge and growth that I have been given, and I can’t thank Crystal Bridges enough for what they’ve done for me.
Want to be a member of the next Teen Council?
Crystal Bridges is seeking applications from creative, committed, and diverse high school students with an interest in art and community engagement to be part of the museum’s 2019-2020 Teen Council. Applications open on May 20 and close August 2. Visit our Teen Council page!
This post was written by Virginia Hammond, Teen Council Leader.