Malala’s Story and Mission – Emily T.

Malala was born on July 12, 1997 in Mingora, a town north-west of Pakistan. She loved learning and going to school. In 2009, as the Taliban’s military hold on Swat intensified, Malala began writing a blog for the BBC Urdu service under a pseudonym, about fears that her school would be attacked and the increasing military activity in her town. Television and music were banned, women were prevented from going shopping and then Malala’s father was told that his school had to close.

Malala and her father received death threats but continued to speak out for the right to education. Around this time, Malala was featured in a documentary made for The New York Times and was revealed as the author of the BBC blog. In 2011, she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. In response to her rising popularity and national recognition, Taliban leaders voted to kill her.

On October 9, 2012, as Malala and her friends were coming home from school, a masked gunman entered their school bus and asked for Malala by name. She was shot with a single bullet which went through her head, neck and shoulder. Malala survived the initial attack, but was in a critical condition. She was moved to Birmingham in the United Kingdom for treatment at a hospital that specializes in military injuries. She was not discharged until January 2013 by which time she had been joined by her family in the UK.

The Taliban’s attempt to kill Malala received worldwide condemnation and led to protests across Pakistan. In the weeks after the attack, over 2 million people signed a right to education petition, and the National Assembly quickly ratified Pakistan’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill.
Malala became a global advocate for the millions of girls being denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. Malala accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2014 with Kailash Satyarthi. She started the Malala Fund to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential, and to demand change.

Meosha’s Motivation – Emily T.

Meosha came into NVAM to speak about her experience on November 7th, 2015. I did not think that her speech would’ve had such an impact on me, but it moved me on an unexplainable level. She started her speech talking about how she chose to join the military because two reasons: her friend, and her financial concerns. Meosha was an only child and was raised by her single mother, so it would not be surprising to hear that her mom rejected her proposal. After a long discussing with her mom, her mom decided to support her decision. Meosha then shared her complicated and tough experience at bootcamp with us. She graduated at the top of her class and was given the opportunity to choose where to spend her next years to work. She originally had her mind set on Hawaii, but ended up choosing Italy. This was a big change for Meosha because it was her first time out of the country.

In her stay at Italy, a volcano had erupted. Instead of evacuating like the other residents, Meosha was required to stay and assist in any way possible. Another traumatic event that occurred in Italy was a helicopter accident; this tragedy took four of her friends’ lives. She had to live with this memory and it hurt each time she thought of it. She described this pain as a “moral injury”, an injury that others cannot see.

After Italy, she was transferred to Iraq. Mesh had to leave her family and her child behind to serve her country. She described Iraq to be a setting where she ware in pain, calm, and aware. Her most unforgettable moment in her stay was when she was in a vehicle with three fellow soldiers and the car hit a land bomb. Meosha was the only survivor completely because she got thrown out of the vehicle.

After this horrible event, reconstructive surgery was necessary and the doctors even suggested a leg amputation. Luckily, Meosha’s mother did not allow her daughter’s leg to be amputated. Meosha woke from her coma cuffed and panicked. She slowly recalled and processed what happened and understood that she needed physical therapy in order to talk again. In the meantime, her life remained on a wheelchair. During this period she described it as a “suicidal and dark” time where she did not see the light in her life. She would cry during her physical therapy sessions and refuse to participate.

Days had gone by where Meosha refused to shower or participate in any activities. This continued until her best friend came and pointed out that she had an unbearable odor and that she needs to get it together. Meosha told us that her friend saved her live by telling her to keep holding on because “she survived for a reason”.

In the end, Meosha described that death was a reality that we have to accept. Although she had experienced many near death experiences throughout her military career. She was asked “If you were given a choice to go back, would you redo this military experience all over, or choose a different life path?” Her response was that she would do it all over again because the choices she made in the military shapes her character which shaped her into who she is now and she would never do anything to change that.

NVAM Reflection – Emily T.

My experience at NVAM teen council was wonderful. When I signed up, I didn’t realize that I would be meeting teens from different grades and schools. An unexpected event was the fact that I made so many new friends at teen council. Moki and Alison were both wonderful instructors that have helped me learn and open up to new ideas. They are both adults I can trust and share any problems I had in school or in my life. They also provided many field trips to expand our knowledge of a veteran’s life and thoughts. We were given the chance to create an ofrenda to commemorate the twenty-two veterans that commit suicide on a daily basis. After creating the ofrenda, we got to display it at a public area with many other foundations who have created ofrendas for their passed loved ones. Another project we worked on was a repeated wallpaper activity. This activity was quite complicated at first, but the finishing piece took me by surprise by how great it turned out. I will definitely be applying this activity in my future life; whether I decide to create a pattern for clothes or a repeated pattern for my personal enjoyment. Overall, my experience at NVAM was incredible because of the enjoyment and the great memories I created with my fellow peers throughout these past few months.

Teen Council Spring Showcase: Art as Activism

Developing a sense of self and an understanding of one’s place in the world is a journey that teenagers are particularly attuned to. The Spring Showcase features work by NVAM Out Loud members prompted by the themes of identity and art as activism. Supplemented by the workshops of veteran artists Eric Garcia, Mel L., and Maurice Costello, the Spring program emphasizes the importance of identity-based artwork. The final art projects are a result of the teens’ reflections about what they value and how they can connect their individuality to an idea larger than themselves. We feel fortunate to have a teen council that represents a variety of backgrounds and as a result, brings rich and distinct perspectives into the process of finding yourself and what you stand for.


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NVAM Out Loud sculpts! (With reflection by Natalia S.)

The teen council took their clay making skills to a whole new level by expressing themselves during a sculpture activity. Since this occurred around the same time as midterms, the lesson was left open-ended, allowing for the teens to create whatever was on their minds. Check out the results!

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Here’s a reflection by NVAM Out Loud member Natalia S.:

“I thought that the sculpture activity was pretty interesting. I was able to physically use my hands and fingers to mold something that appealed to me. At first, I really wasn’t so sure what I should make. I tried making a turtle but it was a bit of a dramatic choice for my first time sculpting and I wasn’t really sure how to go about making it. I kept rolling around the clay and practicing with it in my fingers and then BAM I decided to make corals. I love marine biology. My desire to learn more about the topic inspired me to create an oceanic creature. To add a little more texture and make it stand out, I decided to blend pink and yellow together to create a two toned coral sculpture. It actually turned out super cool! I can’t wait to see how it looks when it dries.”

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NVAM teens participate in Creative Community workshop with Maurice Costello

Last Saturday, veteran artist Maurice Costello led the workshop Unconventional Approaches to Painting where magazine pages were utilized as studies in tone and shading. By using only black, dark grey, light grey, and white acrylic paint, participants colored over portions of the magazine page that matched the tonal value. The results were fascinating! Below are images of the NVAM teen council showing off their work. It seemed like once the teens got the hang of the activity, they used the parameters of the assignment to focus on brushwork and demonstrated the experimentation that can occur when placed in an art making situation with boundaries.

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To find out more about Maurice Costello’s work, visit

Teen council makes awesome tote bags for After School Matters store!

After learning about stencil street art, the NVAM teen council made stencils and applied them to canvas tote bags that will be sold in the After School Matters storefront on 66 E. Randolph St. All proceeds go directly back into the After School Matters program fund, so the next time you find yourself near Millennium Park swing by the ASM store and support Chicago’s teens!

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NVAM Out Loud reacts to 100 Faces of War Experience

The National Veterans Art Museum (NVAM) teen council completed an activity where they learned how a shared experience can produce multiple perspectives. Each teen was tasked to find three veterans who had different attitudes concerning their service in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. The experience of the combat veterans was grouped into three categories: positive experience, negative experience, and in-between/unsure. The teens discovered that it was possible for a veteran to have conflicting perspectives when remembering his or her service and that a shared experience as complicated as war never has a straight forward answer. In this video the teens present their findings in front of a veteran’s portrait of their choosing.

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NVAM Teen Council visits the National Museum of Mexican Art

Last Saturday the NVAM Teen Council went on a field trip to Pilsen and visited the National Museum of Mexican Art. We viewed two exhibitions, Nuestras Historias and Dos Experiencias, Una Identidad, since the focus on identity corresponds with the theme of our upcoming Spring Showcase. After being greeted by the friendly staff, we split into two groups and toured Nuestras Historias. Drawing on the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibit displayed diverse stories of Mexican identity in North America. It was great observing the teens who come from a Mexican background share their experiences with those who were encountering the culture for the first time. We spent a large amount of time in the final gallery showcasing local artists, investigating the motivations behind color choice in Oscar Moya’s Blue Collar/Cuello Azul (2000) or the feeling of nostalgia in The Posadas/Las Posadas (2000) by Carmen Lomas Garza.

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Next door was an intimate showcase of prints by René Arceo, Mexican-born art educator, lecturer and printmaker. It was a great follow up to Nuestras Historias, since he is based in Chicago and is art teacher in a CPS school. Arceo works primarily with print medium of linocuts and his art was organized by the themes of spirituality, portraiture, and indigenous. The teen council responded positively and found familiar elements in Arceo’s work based on their experience in the printmaking workshop with Eric Garcia last February. Of particular help was the decision to display the physical linocut; I found this to be a particularly useful education tool when exploring the artistic process with the teen council. It was during this time the teens began to voice their reactions to the museum and its collection. Some students were amazed at the rich culture and history of Mexican and Mexican-American populations and some who were Mexican realized that there was so much to learn about themselves and where they come from.

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We wrapped up the afternoon by having a picnic in Harrison Park with a feast of pupusas, tortas, tacos and aguas frescas. With the smell of elotes in the air and families out enjoying the weekend, it was a lovely day spent with the teen council. Right before hopping on our school bus, we swung by Hector Duarte’s iconic home for a quick impromptu lesson on public art.

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NVAM Teen Council create self-portraits based on work by Maurice Costello

On March 17, veteran artist Maurice Costello led the teens in an art making activity where they transformed a high contrast selfie into a larger self-portrait. The teens began by taking selfies with a black and white filter which was then enlarged and projected onto the wall of the NVAM Out Loud workspace. Using a technique similar to what Maurice Costello does with his self-portraits, the teens traced an outline of their faces and decided how they would represent themselves using color, shading, and overall design. The resulting self-portraits were a wonderful reflection of the diverse talents and perspectives each teen brings to his or her work.

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The teen council self-portraits will be on display during Maurice Costello’s Creative Community workshop on April 18th.


Check, one, two! MC workshop with Mel L.

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On Saturday February 28th, veteran artist Mel L. conducted a free workshop where he taught basic rhyming skills and writing techniques. The NVAM teen council was in full attendance along with some fellow veterans. To get things started, Mel had the whole group engaged in exercises that activated the abdomen which helped with our enunciation. We then did a stream of consciousness writing activity to generate ideas for our rhymes. After refining our thoughts through a cappella writing, Mel played some beats and we adapted our rhymes to become amateur hip hop artists!

The teen council had some questions for Mel and he ever so graciously replied:

How can I improve my graffiti skills?
Practice, practice, practice. Figure out the best way for you to hold the can to get the results you want.

What inspired your technique for your style in graffiti?

I was inspired by the culture. I remember watch old Hip Hop videos and movies back in the day, like Wild Style, and wanting to be a painter. Because I was self taught (I didn’t really know any other graffiti writers in  my town) I would say my technique was inspired by what made me the person I was/am today.

What is the name of your crew?
The Microphone Misfitz

Do you like doing workshops?
I love it. Its a good feeling getting to work with people from so many different ages, cultures and backgrounds.  I get to create art while I’m teaching and I like building and feeding off of the people involved.Plus, its cool to know that something I’ve said or done may inspire the group of people to step up in the arts. 

What led you to pursuing teaching the youth?
My first job in education came from me being hired as an actor/interpreter at a local museum teaching classes about the exhibits. At the time I had just started my theater company and I was approached by someone who was working there who said I kinda looked like someone the museum wanted portray. I loved working there and since then I have grown to love education as much as the arts.

What inspired or led you to go into the music industry from acting?

I been singing all my life even though acting was my first love. I would sing all the time and even started break dancing and rapping as a kid at school dances. At a lot of my shows we would sing and have competitions to see who was best. When I was sophomore in high school when I was cast a musical, Fiddler on the Roof, when i figured that could do both. because Hip Hop allowed more freedom of speech to say what I felt, how I felt it and me growing up in and embracing the culture as a whole it just kinda took over. 
As a veteran, do you find a lot of inspiration from your time serving in the Marines?
Yes, it has influenced my life as a whole and I draw inspiration from my life in general. I did a lot of writing during my time in service. Plus it made making songs, like Ready for War, easier to write.

What inspires you?
My family, life, politics, comedy, silly things I see people do on the train, my students, education, things I’m passionate about, books (I read a lot esp. biographies and comic books), people.

Who is your favorite rapper?
My two favorite rappers (I’m a Misfit I can’t name just one) would be Scarface and E40. 

How do your words flow so naturally?
Practice, even the most naturally talented/gifted people have to work at it.

What do you do in your free time?

Hanging out with family, listening to music, and occasionally play video games(Madden, Batman, or war games the don’t remind me of personal experiences).

Is making music your career? Have you gone on tour before?

My career is a mix of arts and education that some people refer to as Edutainment. I make a living a Site Manager for an After School program as well as teaching and performing across the country. I have been blessed to apart of several tours over the years from Comic Con to The Cross State Connection Tours. I usually tour a couple times a year and since my evenings, weekends and sometimes summers are free it really helps.

Did you always like music or did you just pick up on it?

Always, from listening to the blues and in Mississippi with my grandfather, to listening to soul and funk with my mothers aunts and uncle, to picking up country music in the south, classical and jazz in the theatre and Hip Hop in the neighborhood. Music has always been with me.

How do you get yourself to focus on writing a song?

Its never the same. Sometimes I lock myself in a room with the music, a pen, and paper until I have what I want. Sometimes it just comes to me and I have to drop what I’m doing to get the thoughts on the paper. I do a lot of free writing when I’m writing songs as well.

What should I do to sound better?

Speak clearly and enunciate. Your voice is yours, play with it until you find one that you are comfortable with. The tone, inflection and intensity of my voice changes depending on my mood and what message I’m looking to get across. 

What should I do to flow when reading out loud?

The more you read over something the more comfortable you become with it so before you read it aloud in front of others read it to yourself a few times and if possible read it out loud to yourself a few times.
For more information about Mel’s work, visit

The Things I Carry: Natalia

This week, I was able to make the interesting realization that we are defined by the things we carry. We all carry different things, representing our differing personalities and likes. I ALWAYS carry a ton of paper with me just because I use so much of it throughout the day and for various assignments. Other times, I just like to jot down some thoughts on paper so that I can remember them or refer to them at a later time.

When I emptied my purse, the contents it carried included lots of loose change and coffee receipts. This is a representation of just how busy I am with my classes and other activities because I literally live off of caffeine every single day.

When my friend Ariana emptied her pockets I was able to see what she carried, which includes the following: An iPhone, headphones, a receipt, and a band pin. I was able to conclude that she loves music and that music is what defines her character.

The Things I Carry: Melissa

The object I chose was a grenade and it relates to the wallpaper on my phone of Luis Coronel because he is the bomb. I think the contents in my bag show that I don’t carry much and don’t need much to complete my day. The bag I looked at shows that the person is very organized because she had placed her objects in an organized way, for example all of her makeup was placed from largest to smallest. This lesson taught me that every teen is different. I got to see how the contents in our bag can define who we are.


The Things I Carry: Clarissa

In my group we chose a grenade. In war the grenade is a common weapon used. A common thing I use is my phone. My phone relates to this object because people are always blowing up my phone. In my picture I have my earphones and my phone. When I listen to music from my phone the bass would be exploding in my ears. Then you see my lip bomb. Who can’t live without lip bomb. Doing this task made me realize that our bags really can reflect who we are. So if your messy you probably don’t care and/or your lazy.


The Things I Carry: Ariana

In my bag I had my phone, money,coffee, and some band pins. One important thing in my bag was my phone because my phone contains all my music and things that are important to me. I listen to music 24/7. My friend Natalia emptied her bag to and I saw that she only had money, a gift card, and receipts. This show me that she is very organized and that she doesn’t like to carry a lot of things.


The Things I Carry: Adam

On Tuesday we dumped our school bags on the floor and picked out certain objects that we thought were important to us. Then we placed those objects on a blank piece of paper in an artistic fashion. After that was done we went to our peers piles and tried our best to recreate their piles in our sketch books. I thought it was pretty rad because I really never done anything like that before and I’d love to do something like it in the future.

The contents in the person’s bag that I chose to draw made them seem like they appreciate music because they had headphones. The contents that I had chosen to represent me would make someone think that I play music due to the sheet music I had in my bag. Something that I learned about my class mates had to be that some people had very similar items and some people had very different items. The items in their bags showed me exactly what type of person they are, and that was super tight.

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Teens react to printmaking workshop with Eric J. Garcia

On Valentine’s Day, Chicago-based artist Eric J. Garcia led a public workshop titled “Hearts for Vets” where he discussed the historical context of printmaking and led a demonstration where participants created Valentine prints for veterans. Below are some of the immediate responses the NVAM Out Loud teens had to the activity:

Members of NVAM Out Loud working on linocuts.
Members of NVAM Out Loud working on linocuts.

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Christina L. Moving Collage

This art piece is made out of wooden blocks and a print out of the original artist's drawing.
This art piece is made out of wooden blocks and a print out of the original artist’s drawing hide.

The way I got inspiration to create this art piece is from laying on my bed one day checking my Tumblr, and I saw a picture of a women going up to her closet picking out a mask to wear. The reason why this particular picture gave me so much inspiration is because I realized that so many people hide their true emotions, and cover it up with the words “I’m fine” when in reality the person is not fine. In conclusion, this art piece represents the true emotions that each person try’s to hide.

Natalia S- Moving Collage

Wooden blocks, edited photograph, dictionary pages, mod podge.


I decided to use my own photograph of flowers and a typed Bible verse to describe something that’s important me and something I live by on a day to day basis. I used dictionary pages on the outer sides of the block to represent how important words are for me. I feel like society lives by words because we’re surrounded by them everywhere. I guess it all just depends on which words we choose to follow- everyone is different.