By Jim Sullivan
---- — AMESBURY — An estimated 150 of Amesbury’s youth walked together from the high school to City Hall to the Bullnose in Market Square and Upper Millyard amphitheater yesterday to protest the proposed cuts to the high school programs for the FY15 budget.
The movement took shape as part of a student-led campaign called “Save the Soul of Amesbury’s Schools.”
“I’m going to cry, ‘Save the Soul,’” said co-organizer Cody Care, 22. “It’s incredible knowing that all of these people want to come down here in support of not only education, but the future. I want to take this state-wide. I want to take this nation-wide.”
Dubbed the “March for Amesbury Schools,” the demonstrators walked and danced down the streets to protest the proposed cuts to the high school’s music and drama departments, technical education and the early college programs.
Planning for the march began only one week ago, and through the use of social media, blossomed into yesterday’s event that saw students holding signs reading, “Continue the Investment in Amesbury” and “Save the Arts” for passers-by and drivers on Main Street, many of whom honked their horns in support.
Amesbury Crime Prevention Officer Tom Hanshaw was overseeing traffic during the Bullnose portion of the demonstration and said his biggest concern was getting the demonstrators to cross the street safely.
“People are very passionate about the arts and music and theater and drama,” Hanshaw said. “It is definitely a community issue. A lot of people showed up, so that is a good sign. It is good to see young people getting involved with programs like this.”
Amesbury High freshman Maggie Bornstein is currently in the Drama Club and hopes to continue to do so next year.
“This will put my entire high school career at risk,” Bornstein said. “It would affect where I go to college. The arts are important for development and I think that is a huge, huge thing.”
Fellow freshman Brad Taylor had a major role in the Drama Club’s production of “Dear Mr. Woodwell” which went to the semi-finals of the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s annual Drama Festival earlier this month.
“I will not let this go away,” Taylor said. “We need this in our school.”
Recent Amesbury High graduate and Fitchburg State University freshman Christopher Webber took the early college class for two years at AHS and will be able to graduate from college early thanks to the college credits he earned.
“(Early college) prepared me to write essays in college,” Webber said. “It taught me to do my research and make sure I know what I am talking about.”
Another AHS graduate who was not able to be at the demonstration having just finished filming a pilot for NBC, actor Greg Hoyt told the Daily News that he practically grew up in the Drama Club and said it opened many doors for him.
“I got the performing bug through the band and the Drama Club, that is where I found my passion,” Hoyt said. “It gave me a gateway into the world of the arts. I was just watching television, I was doing my own thing. I didn’t have any training as an actor. In band, my first time in front of a crowd was when I was in the trumpet section of the middle school band. For me, it just introduced me into a whole world of collaboration and creativity that I hadn’t been aware of before.”
Hoyt, who has appeared in the TV series “Heart of Dixie” and “Greek” as well as the Clint Eastwood-directed film, “J. Edgar,” said that he was moved by what his fellow Indians were doing at home this weekend.
“I’m so proud of what those kids are doing,” Hoyt said. “To be able to mobilize the student body and the entire town is incredibly important. I (also) hear they are using social media which also goes to show the importance of creativity and resourcefulness that the arts breeds.”
Senior Siobhan Dolan plays the clarinet in the band and is currently mulling whether to go to Emerson College, Boston University or Northeastern University, among other schools, in the fall.
“I played piano since I was a little kid,” Dolan said. “But I never would’ve taken an interest in the clarinet if it were not for the band. It has kept music a big part of my life and kept me involved in the arts.”