As the holidays approach and you pack up your Halloween decorations, it’s time to think about Thanksgiving and all that it has to offer. Joyous times with friends and family along with good food and laughter is something to definitely look forward to. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of menu planning, turkeys, and shopping — but Thanksgiving first and foremost is an opportunity to appreciate what you have and cherish precious moments with those you love most. We love our Riverside Arts Academy Family; our parents, children, teaching artists, board members, staff members, supporters, donors, and all of those people that help us build community. We are a CITY OF LOVE!

I have the urge to pinch myself because this moment seems unbelievable. Ten long years ago, we read an article in the Press Enterprise. We not only answered the call to keep the school alive, but we took it on a different path to a whole new program. We toiled relentlessly and waited for the opportunity we just had at the Fox Performing Arts Center to bring all of our Higher Education institutions together under one roof and have a community concert featuring our incredible Riverside Children’s Choir, Riverside Youth Orchestra, and amazing Riverside Arts Academy Mariachi Juvenil de Riverside. This is the season of thanks. The list of people to thank is so long, but I can simply say it takes a community to come together, years of commitment to building relationships, a board that rallies to support our kids, and a deep solid commitment to the mission of CHANGING the lives of our Riverside kids. As former Music Director, Alpin Hong, stated at the Gala, “I started with a class of 12 students 7 years ago (3 still involved!) and now look at us!”

It was a night to remember; the audience was crying with joy, the kids were beaming, parents were so proud and thankful for this experience, and our community partners felt so good about meeting other kindred spirits/ performers from different universities. To say our hearts were full was an understatement. But, this month we reflect on what is important: to give back to our kids, make a richer community, focus on the good in the world and, most of all, give grace during this difficult time post-COVID. The world has changed and we all must remember to cherish the small things in life, focus on positive outcomes, and try very hard to give grace. This moment seems so elusive that I now fail to fathom how it makes me feel.

At the Riverside Arts Academy, our goal is to unlock our students’ intellectual potential for academic success through music. We want our students to gain the self-confidence needed to succeed in life, ultimately overcoming the disadvantages and social inequity in the world. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Collette Lee
Founding President
Riverside Arts Academy