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Berks County Community Foundation: Youth Advisory Council - Sitting



  • Artists Jean Esther, Angel Perez, and Studio B student participants in "Happy to Be Me 3.0," summer camp, 2014
    Camp Coordinator and Instructor: Nancy Yurkovich
    Studio B
    39A East Philadelphia Avenue
    Boyertown, PA 19512


  • Berks County Community Foundation
    Youth Advisory Committee (YAC)
    P.O. Box 212?Reading, PA 19603-0212

Happy to Be Me 3.0: "Happ" was the end product of a summer camp program awarded to Studio B, funded by a grant from Berks County Community Foundation. In the summer camp, students 7-17 enjoyed a variety of creative, art-related opportunities designed to teach and enhance art skills; increase self- awareness, self-acceptance, and self-confidence; build resilience and healthful relationships with other members of the community-young and not-so-young; refine communication skills; and promote appreciation for others in an effort to decrease the deleterious effects of discrimination and prejudice that often results in bullying behavior.

Students in the Boyertown Area School District (BASD) and those who participate in Studio B's educational program were asked to identify people in their lives who display heroic qualities in surmounting challenging circumstances or who serve as role models of self confidence and healthy communication in relationships.

Students were then asked to create a visual representation of these "heroes" and "heroic qualities" which inspired Jean Esther, artist and Studio B art instructor, to create a design for the bear portraying the many heroes and role models in students' lives. Studio B's summer camp participants helped to paint the design Jean Esther created which featured a variety of images representing parents and grandparents, police officers and firemen, soldiers, dogs, nurses and doctors, auto mechanics, teachers, pastors and priests, for example.

"Superheroes do the right things at the right moments showing they are brave and kind and healthy and happy and respect and appreciate other people," explained Jane Stahl, Studio B's Director of Community Relations and co-coordinator of the Bear Fever project along with her husband Paul.

"Sadly, bullying behavior can be found anywhere and can have serious effects on those victimized," noted Stahl. "Clarifying one's self image and identifying a personal mission statement are an enormous benefit in managing life's assorted 'slings and arrows.'" Stahl continued. "We are eager to help our young people, in a small way through the arts, to develop the knowledge and tools they will need in living happy and successful lives."

It is the intent of the program that "Happ" visit Boyertown Area School District schools to showcase the sculpture and, as a visual aid, inspire discussion and art-related activities forwarding the mission of building resilience, developing healthy communication skills in relationships and promoting an appreciation of diversity.

"Happ" currently resides in the lobby of Boyertown Area School District's education center and exemplifies in his own mission the mission statement of the district: "To enable all students to succeed in a changing world."

"Happ" continues Studio B's on-going efforts in adding to the "protective factors" (listed below) toward building a better, kinder community.

Studio B

Free to Be Me!
Building Better, Kinder Communities
Building Resilience: Developing Protective Factors+

  • Promoting close bonds:
    * Discovering one's own beliefs, values, and life mission provides a strong sense of self--able to withstand the challenges life offers;
    * Friendships and positive relationships create a safety net during tough times without fear of being ridiculed and allow for creative, constructive risk-taking necessary to complete complex creative projects through teamwork.
  • Valuing and encouraging education:
    * Increasing awareness of the characteristics of effective communication, conflict resolution, mediation, handling difficult people and situations promote empowerment;
    * Becoming knowledgeable about current events lends a sense of control over one's circumstances and provides an ability to participate at appropriate levels;
    * The ability to research topics and present information effectively and clearly is a stand-out skill in today's ever-changing world.
  • Using high warmth/low criticism style of interaction:
    * Being able to share ideas in brainstorming sessions, offer feedback non-judgmentally, and acknowledge all ideas and opinions with interest and without criticism promotes teamwork, positive relationships, empathy, and respect.
  • Setting and enforcing clear boundaries (rules norms, and laws):
    * Learning to see "rules" as "tools" provides strength, safety and security for self as well as sponsoring trust in relationships. "Rules" as "Tools" include the following interpersonal practices:
    * Eliminating sarcasm, criticism;
    * Becoming familiar with the rules of etiquette;
    * Treating people as you wish to be treated;
    * Choosing not to write or say anything that you would feel uncomfortable reading or hearing from someone else;
    * Choosing not to "shoot from the hip";
    * Counting to 10 and then thinking before you write or speak;
    * Choosing not to call people names since name-calling is a form of bullying;
    * Choosing not to gossip-gossiping is a form of slander;
    * Choosing not to use code online;
    * Using real words and full sentences to avoid misinterpretation;
    * Choosing never to give out personal information online or off;
    * Choosing not to e-mail or post inappropriate pictures or videos;
    * Choosing never to keep secrets from your parents;
    * Letting your parents know if someone asks you to keep secrets;
    * Telling a grown-up immediately if you are ever in a dangerous, destructive or unsafe situation;
    * Affirming that adults possess judgment not available to kids, care about you and want to keep you safe.
  • Encouraging supportive relationships with many caring others:
    * Expanding your circles of resiliency-building, supportive relationships allows you to know you're not alone and that you have help as needed.
    * Practicing skills in "how to win friends and influence people" promotes the development of new relationships and strengthens existing ones.
  • Promoting sharing of responsibilities:
    * Working together in assorted activities toward the completion of a variety of tasks and complex projects prevents "burn out," becoming overwhelmed and paralyzed by a task's enormity and encourages pride in ownership.
  • Service to others, a.k.a. "required helpfulness":
    There's no better way to build a strong sense of self, resilience, and a better, kinder community than in finding opportunities to help and support others, their projects, and their efforts.
  • Expressing high, and realistic, expectations for success; encouraging goal-setting and mastery:
    Making goals for yourself that can be met will provide a sense of accomplishment and move every task and project forward.
  • Encouraging pro-social development of values (such as altruism) and life skills (such as cooperation):
    * Living by a code of conduct that makes you proud of yourself; looking to your heroes and role models for characteristics that you have admired will enhance your value and sense of self;
    * Demonstrating responsibility, cooperation, and respect for others enhances your value to others and creates an endless loop of positive results;
    * Contributing to team projects invites others to offer their unique gifts and creates the synergy necessary to accomplish complex and creative projects.
  • Providing leadership, decision-making and meaningful participation:
    * Assuming leadership roles in small or large projects includes strengthening of abilities in initiating ideas, choosing direction, assignment of tasks, monitoring of activities, acceptance of responsibilities, completing assignments as directed, and the execution of decisions to successful conclusions-all empowering activities.
  • Appreciating, developing, and offering opportunity to share the unique talents/gifts of each individual:
    * Recognizing that each person brings unique experiences, knowledge, and gifts and recognizing that these differences add to the strength of an organization and a community allows for freedom in sharing one's abilities and gifts, a healthy spirit of competition, pride in offering one's unique abilities, and generosity of spirit among members.

+The concept of "Environmental Protective Factors: Characteristics of Families, Schools, Communities, and Peer Groups That Foster Resiliency" is taken from the work of Henderson, Nan and Mike Milstein. Resiliency in Schools: Making It Happen for Students and Educators. CA: Corwin Press, 2003.



Jean Esther, Jean Richard Esther was born in Martinique, a small French Island in the Caribbean. Moved to the United States at age 5 and lived in New York, Long Island. Today a resident of Berks County, having lived here for four years. Jean is known for his portrait drawings and comic Illustrations. He also has an array of expertise in design , paintings, cartooning, and mural painting just to name a few. He has done many commissioned artwork, custom logo designs, and participated in many community events. Growing tremendously from his experiences he created his own art service company website Jean has been teaching drawing classes, manga and animae at Studio B since its December 2008 opening. Jean enjoys a following of dedicated students. Enthusiasm and charismatic teaching are his hallmarks. Everyone loves Mr. Jean.

Eliezer Jr. Angel Perez of Reading, PA, is a professional artist, art instructor, and founder of A.P. Art Consulting Company. With skills in graphic design, illustration, mural art, fine art, and production art as well as art therapy, Angel's goal is to awaken the masses through visual art.

Nancy Yurkovich is an art instructor with Boyertown Area School District. She is a local artist, specializing in painting en plein air, ceramics, printmaking and mixed media and runs a small business called Sunshine Art Studio that provides customized art lessons for all ages, face painting, murals and quality entertainment for parties and events. She has taught adults and children at the Banana Factory, The Independent Space Gallery in Kutztown, and Studio B; holds a Masters in Art Education from Kutztown University with a concentration in Community Based Art Education; and has exhibited a collection of drawings and paintings of local and national musicians created live at concerts entitled "Capturing the Sound."