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'Synergy' brings cultural performing arts to students

Synergy means "coming together and functioning as one." That is the message that "Synergy," a new Woodbury High School group, hopes to instill in students.

"What I like about Synergy is it gives kids an opportunity to really discover some critical components about themselves, it lets them see in very experiential ways that they are connected to everyone else, and it fosters good citizenship," Regina Seabrook, social studies teacher and Synergy advisor, said. "It's about, 'how do I participate in this world in an effective way.'"

Synergy is a performing arts program sponsored through the East Metro Integration District (EMID), that aims to expose students to and develop them through cultural activities at a total of 11 different school districts, St. Paul public schools and surrounding districts.

"We really bring kids together for four main reasons, develop intra-cultural awareness and inter cultural awareness, to promote leadership, to promote civic engagement and to achieve high academic achievement," Heidi Fransen, equity and integration specialist form student programming from EMID, said. "It's about promoting culture and stress that it's not limited to race and ethnicity, culture can make up anything that makes us who we are."

Synergy, which meets two days a week for 15 weeks, works under the format of students learning about different cultures and different areas of cultural performance through experiential activities, such as games, exercises, and performances.

Whatever the performances or the activities are depends on what the students bring to the group, Fransen said.

"The group really depends on what kinds of gifts and talents the kids bring," she said. "They're really challenged to think outside the box and they're really drawn to it because they create it."

Seabrook said the students performance arts interest range from everything to poetry, to guitar playing, to song writing, to it's emphasis, hip hop.

"The arts are transformative, we as human beings are continually seeking meaning and transformation and that's what draws people in," she said. "And hip hop is an international medium that a lot of people can connect to because the messages are often relevant to the realities of their lives."

In addition to the group itself being primarily student-driven, the group coming to Woodbury was student-driven as well.

Sophomore Pader Vue previously participated at a Synergy group at White Bear High School. She enjoyed it and wanted to bring it to Woodbury.

"I like how everyone works as a team and we become like a family," she said.

Vue took it upon herself to circulate a student petition in order to get Synergy at WHS, and then sent it off to the administration.

"I'm really proud that my voice was heard," she said. "Before Synergy, I didn't think my voice could change anything."

Seabrook said Synergy is a great program because it brings the different cultures of the world together and shows students that they are one.

"Synergy is a really strong word," Vue said. "It's all these different types of religions and races coming together to form one."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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