Port Hoper gets White House award
Former Port Hope resident Tricia Snell (right), now executive director of the Caldera organization, was accompanied by Caldera student representative Alena Nore to accept one of 12 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program awards bestowed by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama this week. Submitted Photo
Former Port Hope resident Tricia Snell was among a contingent that was invited to the White House this week to recognize outstanding service to youth.
The daughter of Edwin and Elizabeth Snell (and alumna of Howard Jordan Elementary School, Dr. M.S. Hawkins Junior High School and Port Hope High School) was accompanied by a young lady named Alena Nore to represent an organization called Caldera — one of 12 recipients of National Arts and Humanities Youth Program awards bestowed by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Caldera works to be a catalyst for the transformation of underserved youth through innovative year-round art and environmental programs in Oregon. Snell, who has been its executive director since 2007, said that this programming has reached about 1,900 underserved youth to date.
Growing up with a musician mother, Snell went on to earn her A.R.C.T. in flute performance at the Royal Conservatory of Music at the University of Toronto, then to take a Masters of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Her father loved the outdoors, she added.
“My home town of Port Hope valued the arts, valued the beautiful lakes and forests around it, and valued community. These are all important aspects of Caldera, so I suppose I had been training for my role as Caldera's executive director all my life,” Snell reflected.
“I also grew up with a strong feminist spirit, a sense that opportunities should be as available to girls as they were to boys, and that my family's modest financial situation should not be an obstacle to me.”
Snell grew to care deeply about equal access to education, the arts and nature experiences — and to learn how race or poverty destroyed these opportunities for so many children.
“In my evolution as a writer, musician, and teacher, I developed a passionate belief in the power of creativity to transform lives. I believe each person possesses their own creative fire. And I love to see people flourish through their involvement in the arts,” she said.
“I love how they find their voices, their confidence, mine their stories, and develop new ways of knowing the world.
“When Caldera asked me to be their executive director, it felt like the perfect nexus of all that I believe in.”
Snell's Caldera bio cites her 35-year background as writer, administrator, teacher, musician and environmental advocate.
“She was the founding executive director of the Alliance of Artists' Communities (an international network of artist residency programs) and led that organization from 1994 to 2002,” it stated.
“She worked as a staff writer and project manager for several environmental organizations, including the Center for Marine Conservation (now called the Ocean Conservancy). She has taught writing, literature and arts administration in several universities, and taught music for decades, directing her own private studio for youth for five years.
“Tricia is the author of Artists' Communities (1996/2000, Allworth Press) amongst other publications, stories, and articles.
“She is a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum in Oregon, and has contributed in public-service roles at such arts organizations as Res Artis (international arts network based in Amsterdam) and the Regional Arts and Culture Council (Portland, OR).”
Caldera's curricula are designed to awaken students’ innate creativity, broaden their world view and foster their awareness of the arts and natural environment.
“Each year, students attend our summer camp in the Central Cascades, where they receive deep mentorship while learning to work in a variety of arts disciplines, including dance, music, visual arts, theatre, creative writing, photography, and media arts,” Snell said.
Caldera works with youth in their schools and on weekends, in summer camps and in long-term programming over the course of years.
“Our program is designed around several organizing philosophies: positive youth development built on sustained adult involvement, access to activities that build life skills, participation in a valued community, opportunities for youth to become leaders within their community, and a mix of group and one-on-one mentoring,” Snell stated.
The ultimate aim is to eliminate any of the gaps these young people might otherwise have faced so that they might achieve academic success, become agents of creative change within their families and communities, and transition to healthy, productive adulthood.
Though Caldera student representative Alena Nore accompanied her to accept the award, Snell said, many more people deserve thanks.
“So many people have contributed to making Caldera the powerfully transformational organization that it is — youth mentors, teaching artists, staff, board, volunteers, and supporters of all kinds,” she listed.
“I would especially thank our visionary founder Dan Wieden, without whom there would be no Caldera.
"I am so thankful to the Caldera community. It was a thrill — inspiring! — to visit the White House and to meet First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been such a strong and passionate advocate for youth and the arts.”