This year, the Arizona Commission is doing something a little different with our biennial Joint Arts Education Conference (JAEC). We’ve placed young people in the lead.

Composed entirely of young people from throughout the state, ages 15-18, the JAEC Youth Advisory Board is guiding Arts Commission staff in a collaborative effort to provide Arizona educators, administrators, and teaching artists an opportunity to explore the potential of student-centered learning and develop culturally responsive curriculum.

This approach reflects the theme of this year’s conference: Creative Youth Development (CYD), a recent term for a longstanding theory of practice that integrates creative skill-building, inquiry, and expression with positive youth development principles.

As Youth Advisory Board member and Arts Commission intern Ty Muhammad is fond of saying, “We’re not leaders of tomorrow; we’re leading right now.”

JAEC 2018 will be held in Tucson on November 13, 2018.
Visit for info and registration links.

JAEC 2018 Youth Advisory Board

Laila Ashrafi
Age: 17

Laila is a high school senior at Arizona School for the Arts. She is co-president of her school’s Feminist Alliance club, Social Media/Marketing lead for Film Appreciation club, a member of: The National Honor Society, Thespians, and the Foreign Language Honor Society. She plans to study acting in the future.

Akhila Bandlora
Age: 16
Poetry/Creative Writing

Hi! My name’s Akhila, and I’m a rising junior at BASIS Phoenix! I’m co-president and co-founder of creative youth of Arizona LLC, an organization whose mission is to identify students with exceptional artistic and literary talent, and then present their remarkable work to the world. Overall, I’m super passionate about youth activism through creativity! Additionally, I’m a firm believer in the following: cinnamon rolls are for real ones, freakonomics podcasts can heal all wounds, and Sam Smith is the greatest musician of all time.

Kasey Cross
Age: 17

Kasey Cross is a native to North Phoenix and a senior at Sandra Day O’Connor High School. She has been passionate about visual arts and creating for as long as she can remember but has found a new love within performing arts in recent years with color guard and dance. When Kasey is not performing, she often makes jewelry, plays video games, or spends time with her 5 dogs. After High school, Kasey plans on attending the University of Texas at Austin, for a degree in Art History.

Annalise Dilts
Age: 17
Poetry and Music

I love volunteering and helping out my community, especially my fellow students. That’s why I’m super glad to have this opportunity so I can help impact people in a positive way. Besides volunteering, I also love my two dogs, writing poetry, debating, and chocolate. I’m a senior in high school and I’m working on getting my IB diploma, so I have a lot on my plate, but I’m always ready to do more. When I get older I want to become a geneticist or microbiologist and help LGBT+ students and women get into STEM fields. My ultimate goal is to own three dogs and a cat. I’m excited for the conference!

Jesús Galaviz Arreguin
Age: 17
Choral Music

Jesús discovered the art of choral music in middle school under the direction of Laurel Farmer. Soon thereafter, he joined the Phoenix Children’s Chorus. Through this organization, he has enjoyed performing throughout the United States and in the Sydney Opera House. An alumnus of Alhambra High School, he sang under the direction of Stephanie Brewer and made Regional and State Honor Choirs. As an arts advocate, he has collaborated with the Arizona Arts Commission to support creative youth development. Jesús is currently studying choral music education at Northern Arizona University.

Alyssa Gerkin
Age: 17

I am a senior in high school at Arizona School for the Arts, where I have gone to school since 5th grade. My greatest passion is helping people, and I do so through social activism as much as I can. I might pursue a career in social policy or government, because I believe a lot of change needs to happen in our world. Art is important to me because it is my outlet for when I am stressed or need a source of hope, and I believe it can be used for anything from entertainment to self-expression and advocacy.

Helena Häber
Age: 18
Film and Music

Helena is a high school senior and planning to study film production and music performance. She is also an activist, participating in the AZ chapter of March for our Lives and representing young artists through the Phoenix Youth Arts and Culture Council. She loves making movies and having weekends jam sessions with her friends.

Sophie Harris
Age: 17
Mixed Media Visual Arts

I spend too much time listening to This American Life and dreaming of college. I love reading, painting, drawing, and taking pictures. I like indie rock and contemporary dancing. I have an obsession with the moon and Halloween.

Mira Kaibara
Age: 16
Visual Arts

I am a visual artist and a junior at Phoenix Country Day School. I love active participation: currently, I volunteer as a neuroscience elective teacher to middle school students in my school’s inclusive education program. I have always had a passion for the natural sciences and interpreting them artistically. 95% of the time you can find me doodling random dumb things, and the other 5% of the time you’ll kind find me on the basketball court; but no matter when, you can always find me active.

Lauren Kisicki
Age: 17

Lauren Kisicki is a resident of North Phoenix and a senior at Sandra Day O’Connor High School. She is currently the drum major of the Eagle Pride Marching Band and a founding member of the City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture’s Youth Arts and Culture Council. While flute is her main passion, Lauren also loves listening to podcasts, exploring Phoenix, and spending time with her friends. In the coming year, she is planning on attending an East Coast university and studying political science or statistics.

Jesús López
Age: 18

Jesus is from Phoenix, AZ. He graduated recently from Arizona School for the Arts and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from Arizona State under the tutelage of Dr. Katherine McLinn. He is a passionate arts advocate and currently, is a member of the Youth Arts and Culture Council. As an avid performer, Jesus has performed with many different youth orchestras in Phoenix and collaborated with numerous young artists. He is passionate about classical music, but also expanding classical music from European roots.

Thameenah “Ty” Muhammad
Age: 17

Ty is: part of the staff of Rising Youth Theatre as an Apprentice Artist, a crier during movies, a Teaching Artist at Create Academy and Glenview College Prep H.S. (the school I graduated from!), a lover of mint ice cream, a sophomore at Phoenix College, a believer in aliens, an activist with the #Demand2Learn Campaign, wishing she could be eating sushi all the time, and is interning at the Arizona Commission on the Arts! I have a fire in my heart to help the world the best I can, whether that’s during a protest or by smiling at everyone I meet.

Emily Oliva
Age: 18
Music Production and Film

My name is Emily, I am 18 years old, and I am from Phoenix, Arizona. I study music production and have a deep appreciation for film and cinematography. In the future, I hope to become a music producer and better the world through the message I spread using my art.

Zoya Page
Age: 16

My name is Zoya, i’m currently 16 years old and go to Metro Arts. Things I love include acrylic paints, psychology, science and also animals of any kind! At my school I take psychology and modern/ballet dance. A fun fact about me: I am bilingual, I also speak french! This is my first year on the council and I love it and all the people involved!

Jahan Rico-Movassaghi
Age: 17

My name is Jahan and I am Iranian and native (Mexican and Pima). I am Muslim as well. I enjoy dancing. It’s fun because while your dancing you don’t have the option to think about anything else. I used to be in all painting/drawing classes until junior year when I signed up to be in Dance class. As a senior, I have no drawing classes anymore and only dance classes. Which is kind of sad for me, but I LOVE dance.

Nia Williams
Age: 18
Creative Writing and Visual Art

I’m a journalism and mass communications major at Arizona State University. My hopes and goals for the future are ever evolving (just like I am), but I do know I hope to combine my passions for music and writing someday.

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