Investing In The Future: Nurturing Young Minds Through Music, Arts, Dance And Education

Here at the Center, we continue to embark on an exciting journey of investing in the future of the institution by nurturing young minds through the power of music, arts, dance and education. Last month we awarded 63 individual scholarship awards through the Leo T Walsh program. Over 250 young Irish dancers participated in the Save the Planet Feis and our youth Irish traditional music students entered their fifth month of instruction. This month, we have over sixty young kids enrolled in the annual Irish camp. The camp offers a comprehensive experience that includes not only music but also dance, language, and song, allowing participants to immerse themselves fully in Irish culture.

Platform for Irish Arts — Recognizing the importance of engaging children in their rich Irish heritage, the center is dedicated to providing a vibrant platform for the exploration and celebration of Irish arts. With a newfound commitment to creating inclusive and captivating programming for kids, the center aims to ignite a lifelong passion for cultural expression while fostering a sense of community and connection. As the center continues to open its doors to a new generation of enthusiasts, it sets forth on a mission to weave together the threads of tradition, creativity, and youthful spirit, ensuring that the Irish legacy thrives for years to come.

Cultural Sustainability — Investing in kids and providing opportunities for them to engage in the arts is crucial for the growth and sustainability of any cultural center. Not long after I joined the board back in the spring of 2019-I was struck by a comment from a member of the community who said, “there is nothing for my kids at the Center, why would I go there?”. The statement stopped me in my tracks, and I pensively thought about the remark. These words came from a first-generation Irish American who essentially grew up at the Center. I wondered to myself about how we could change that attitude? As a new board member, my initial focus was on generating desperately needed funds by attracting adults to events. However, the comment about the lack of offerings for children stayed with me, as I recognized the importance of creating programming specifically designed for kids. If we provided the right programs, children would naturally be drawn to participate. This realization prompted us to take action and find ways to involve more kids in the center’s activities.

Irish Camp Anyone? — One of the first initiatives we planned was a first ever summer kids camp in early 2020. Unfortunately, the onset of the pandemic forced the cancellation of the camp, hindering our plans temporarily. Despite this setback, we expressed the ongoing commitment to inspiring young people to engage with Irish arts at the center. In early 2021 we set about establishing our first summer that summer. It proved to be a huge success with forty young community members signing up for the three-week program.

Investing in the kids by offering music, arts, and dance programs can have numerous benefits. It helps children develop their artistic skills, fosters their creativity, and provides a platform for cultural expression. Moreover, such initiatives can contribute to building a sense of community, preserving cultural heritage, and ensuring the continuity of traditions.

Irish Center Priorities — Continuously finding ways to inspire young people and involving them in Irish arts should remain a priority for the center. This can be done through a variety of activities, such as music and dance classes, art workshops, cultural events, performances, and collaborations with local schools and community organizations. By nurturing the interests and talents of the younger generation, the center can create a vibrant and inclusive community that values and appreciates Irish arts and culture. It may have taken us a few years here at the Center to expand our kids programming, but we have an answer now to anyone that says there is nothing for their kids to do at the Center!

Leo T Walsh Program — The 30th Annual Leo T Walsh scholarship awards recognize and support the academic achievements of local Irish American students. Established in 1994 the program has awarded over 670 scholarships and has been instrumental in providing financial assistance to talented students pursuing higher education. We disbursed $58,000 as part of this year’s awards. Four new awards were introduced this year to honor and remember individuals who made significant contributions to their communities and schools. These awards include the Marian Connelly Memorial Award, James Keenan Memorial Award, and memorial awards from the families of Pat Fergus, Mary Lucey, Timothy Driscoll, and the SFYGAA Memorial Award for Nicole Killigrew.

The success of the program is owed to the generous contributions of community supporters and donors. The organizers extend their gratitude to everyone involved, with special recognition given to Peggy Nevin and Carmelle Reiser for their tireless efforts behind the scenes.

Comhaltas Céilí June 4th — The Comhaltas Summer Céili will take place from 6:30pm-9:30pm. Live Music with Tune Station.

Youth GAA Fight Night — Amateur boxing returns to the Center on Saturday June 10th as part of a fundraiser for San Francisco Youth Gaelic Athletic Association which hosts the CYC this summer in the East Bay city of Dublin. First bout is at 5pm.

Bloomsday June 17th — As part of the global Bloomsday Festival for Ulysses by James Joyce, author Michael Fallon will discuss his new book, Ulysses Abridged in the St. Francis room from 1pm. Cormac Gannon and friends will lead a music session.

Photo Exhibition June 23rd-27th — We welcome Belfast documentary photographer Sean McKernan on Friday June 23 at 7pm to open his exhibition: “Belfast – Conflict to Peace” featuring a stunning series of images of life in Belfast from the Hunger Strikes through the Peace Process and beyond. Sean will also present a talk on Sunday June 25th at 2pm. This event is part of the celebration of the 25th Anniversary Year of the Good Friday Agreement. The exhibition runs until Tuesday June 27th.

Wawona Gates June 24th — We will mark the third anniversary of Wawona Gates on Saturday June 24th with music, Irish dancers, and a large birthday cake! The Irish Shoppe will be open.

Camp Showcase June 30th — The culmination of the Irish summer camp will be a grand showcase on Friday June 30th at 7pm produced by the campers themselves. The eagerly awaited performance will feature an enchanting blend of Irish music, captivating dance routines, heartfelt songs, and even the melodious tones of the Irish language.

Liam Reidy, President