In their own words
"When I first started attending the Community School of the Arts in 1992, I had no idea what my future had in store for me. The school opened my eyes to so many new experiences and opportunities. I did everything from blowing glass to doing pottery and playing the piano. Never in a million years would I have done these things had it not been for the Community School of the Arts. When I was in 10th grade, I took a cooking class at CSA and was hooked. From that point on I decided I was going to be a chef. After graduating from Carson Newman, I had used up all my financial aid and could not afford to go to the Culinary Institute of America, even though I had been accepted. But you know who stepped in and made it possible – the Community School of the Arts. I cannot put into words how thankful I am for having CSA in my life. They not only helped me realize my dreams but helped make them come true!"
Erin Story, Class of 2003; Masters Degree in Social Work, University of Tennessee 2009
"The CSA was a sort of home away from home for me, and was the only way that my siblings and I could have received violin, piano and voice lessons. These lessons not only helped me hone my musical talent, but also taught me life skills and lessons that carried over into other facets of my life - lessons such as the importance of discipline, hard work, perseverance, patience and being passionate in everything I do. It is due in large part to the CSA and the teachers and staff there with whom I built relationships that I am who I am today. My fondest memory at the CSA is with Carol Zinavage. My grandfather had just died and my family was still reeling from the loss. During this time, Carol was not only my music teacher, but also a support and a mentor. She not only provided me with a means of self-expression through music, she gave me an ear when I needed it. This supportive and loving spirit was present in all of my interactions with the instructors and staff at CSA, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities I received and the relationships I built during my studies there."
Brittany Rogers, Class of 2003, Bachelor of Art and Business Administration, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 2007
"I have so many great memories that I will never forget. One of my favorites is when I was little and in the visual arts class. We were working on 'found object' sculptures, and I was having trouble coming up with something good to make or decorate. The other students in the class were working away on their individual projects, but I still had not started on anything and was starting to get frustrated. Ms. Willard was trying to give me some pointers to pull me in some type of direction. I was trying to listen to her, but at this point I was so over it, I just took it all out on her. She talked with my parents and me to see what the issue was. My parents were so disappointed in me. I wrote a letter to Ms. Willard and my parents to apologize, and they both accepted. I went back to the class and made a 'wooden girl' which Ms. Willard still has today. It was my gift to her for not giving up on me!"
Felix Taylor Harris III, Class of 2010, Junior at Tennessee Technological University
The Community School of the Arts made me the man I am today. It gave me the confidence to do things I would not normally do. Without the confidence that CSA gave me I don’t see myself ever coming out the shell that I was in, and I don’t see myself having the confidence to go to college. CSA was and always will be a safe place for my sisters and me. Learning to play the trumpet, piano, to dance and to sing gave me so much in life that words cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for the Community School of the Arts, and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all CSA did for me."
Shelly Story, Class of 2000
"I came to the Community School of the Arts with the single goal of becoming a violinist. My family had hit a wall of financial hardship that was not going to budge, regardless of how much I wanted and needed my lessons. CSA ensured that I not only continued to receive my training on violin when times were tough, but allowed me to study piano and voice as well! It gave me hope of achieving my goals for the future by offering me opportunities that I simply would have never had otherwise. I am living a life now that does not reflect a disadvantaged upbringing because, thanks in a large part to the Community School of the Arts, I didn’t have one."
Brittany Rogers, Class of 2003
"My brother was one of the first students that attended CSA '92, so naturally I followed. The atmosphere felt like a community that gave you the choice of different artistic paths. CSA will always be apart of me. It has greatly influenced me and the other students that have moved on to great things. It’s amazing to see that CSA has grown so much and still thrives today. I'm so proud to say that I have been a part of the great programs CSA had to offer. Thank you to all the people that were and still are involved."
Jamison Stalsworth, Class of 2006
"The moment I stepped through the door of CSA at 11 years of age, I felt not only accepted but welcomed into not just a school, but a breeding ground of ideas, passions, individuals and limitless possibilities for finding bold new ways to express myself creatively. I was inspired and encouraged to not just stay true to myself, but to explore myself and be loud. Never once was I stifled, but instead was given the tools to express myself and given the courage to be proud. It gave me a spirit of bold curiosity which I will forever continue to carry with me."
David Habel, Class of 2007
"The Community School of the Arts gave me a healthy escape for many years from everything else. The confidence in my artistic abilities that I gained from the Community School of the Arts was incomparable to any other place during that time in my life. As it stands, I gained a foundation for my future, and there are things I picked up there that still serve me well today."
Sharlita Green, Class of 2009
What CSA means to me is an organization that cares. Not just about my development as an artist, but my development as a person. I remember being taught core principles, then being allowed the freedom to explore; not being thrown out a window, but guided on proper flight. CSA offered a network that cared about what was going on outside of my projects. Ms. Jennifer was never shy about asking how my life was going and if she could offer any support. CSA helped me to realize my love for design and influenced my decision to major in architecture, and the many lessons I learned there have given me a sort of confidence and foundation as I receive projects in my studio. Overall CSA was definitely a defining moment in my life and I look forward to the moment when I am a successful architect and can give back to the school a portion of what they've given to me."
Shantel Waters, Class of 2009
"There's nothing like CSA! I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to be able to learn from such gifted and caring artists. When I first arrived at CSA I learned a lot about my inner self and how to express myself through dance and song. It was later that I began taking piano lessons from Ms. Carol. I loved piano and my instructor very much. It's not just the free lessons that kept me coming back each week; it was the bonds that I shared with my instructors. The instructors at CSA truly care about each of their students."
Alexa Carter, Class of 2010
"CSA was honestly my home away from home. If I was not at school or at home, you could almost always find me at CSA. The Community School of the Arts opened up many doors that led to my appreciation of the arts. It gave me a chance to explore my creative juices through piano, art, dancing, singing, and even cooking! It was also the place where I met many of my mentors who are always checking up on me even to this day."
Mario Goss, Class of 2010
"CSA means a lot to me because they taught and encouraged me to be myself; and provided me with a variety of artistic ways to express who I am. Furthermore, CSA will always be dear to me for supplying me with a wide range of art so that I would one day be able to express myself in a way that means more than words could ever explain. As a graduate, I reflect on my time at CSA and notice that I was truly blessed to have them as a part of my life; and live a thankful life to all the people who played a part in making me a better individual."
Shante Clark, Class of 2010
"CSA has played a huge role in my life ever since the first day. The wonderful men and woman who make up the staff of this organization mean so much to me. They have been there for me in every way possible, above and beyond their responsibilities. They have helped shaped the Woman I am today and continue to influence others through their passion and love for the Community School of the Arts."
Isaac Mobley, Class of 2011
"CSA is a program that acts as an outlet to let out a side of myself that I can neither express in academia or athletic activities. It is a place where I can go to work on my creative side and further develop myself as an all-around person. It has helped me connect with many people allowing my life’s story through my art that now lives in dozens of loving homes."