A High School Nation dedicated to the arts

Festival for students holds a deeper meaning

Anna Eggers, Staff writer

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that Wednesday the touring High School Nation visited Ben Davis.

They threw a festival featuring tons of small artists and bands like Nikki’s Wives, Caroline Roman, Beta Play, and Evan Cole, as well as the major headliner that nearly all high school students of 2017 would recognize- Drake Bell, from Drake & Josh. Along with the live music, the festival included booths and freebies from major corporations like Hollister, Truth, Peta, and Sparkling Ice (a Pepsi brand).

With the famous names that we saw scattered around the practice football fields, you may assume that it was a huge scam to try and convince students to buy things from Guitar Center or Takis. However, after listening and talking to the main runners of the festival, as well as many acts and other crew members, it became apparent that this festival was representative of way more than a superficial commercial grab at our impressionable teenage minds. This festival was made by people like us, for us.

“We started High School Nation to develop young talent. We want to inspire the next generation,” said Jimmy Cantillon, founder of High School Nation. High School Nation boasts having donated over two million dollars to public schools in five years. After the outrageous display that was witnessed, it’s clear that their mission statement of inspiring youth is their true hope.

At the Guitar Center section of the festival, there was tons of instruments and equipment for students to pick up and start creating music. There was specific crew members who helped teach students some notes and encouraged them to continue or start their journey to a music profession.

Students got to watch as Hollister t-shirts were made and even given the opportunity to try their own shirt, all for free. Pure Ice gave students free bottles of their sparkling water and had a spinning machine to create splatter artwork on top of vinyls. Many other booths also had different implications in our school community.

Truth is a non-profit company that works to prevent and end smoking in our generation. They had great music and games, as well as free merchandise (including shirts, snapbacks, and sunglasses) if you texted a number supporting their goal to end smoking. Can You Hear Me? was another non-profit that’s devoted to breaking the stigma of mental health in high school students.

“We want students to feel like there’s a place for them, and you should feel free to be you,” a Can You Hear Me staff member said. Whether you’ve personally dealt with mental health issues or someone important to you has, Can You Hear Me has an online community made for teens to be able to release tensions from their lives and feel less alone. With the ever present mental health statistics for our generation, having this booth was extremely important. Going to high school is difficult enough for many of us, but it can be a struggle for students who want to pursue the arts due to unsupportive parents.

The booths and activities were brilliant successes (although with some long lines), but the event would be a completely different beast without the talented music guests. Many of the performers were teenagers just like us, who found a passion and figured out a way to turn that passion into a nearly three month tour. One of these teenagers is 16 year old Caroline Roman. She started pursuing singing as a career a few years ago and has since managed to become successful enough to appear on this tour.

“It’s so amazing to provide [music] for everybody,” Roman said. It’s a recurrent idea from performer to performer and even the founder of the tour. They all love the ability to spread inspiration to us teens to follow paths that aren’t as easily available to other students in the country. Ben Davis is extremely lucky to have an expansive arts department including Speech classes, BDTV, Choir, and Marching Band. In many other schools, as soon as money starts to get tight those would be the first to be cut. Thank you, Wayne Township.

Hearing Drake Bell sing “Found A Way” live completed my childhood in ways I could never have imagined. Many people were buzzing about negative comments he’s made on social media in the past, but somehow we all banded together and sang that entire theme song together and adored it. If that doesn’t show that world peace is possible, I don’t know what will. Luckily, we did manage to get some advice (and snap a few pictures) from Bell after the show.

“[Success], it’s who you keep around you. You need people to keep you grounded, and everyone has a different path. Don’t get distracted,” Bell said.

For students who are committed to their dreams of continuing in the arts, the way you’ll succeed is by putting in the hard work. It’s going to be difficult and you’re going to have hard times, you’re going to want to throw in the towel. With the right support system, you’ll be able to make a living out of something you love, and be able to look back and enjoy the journey. For me, one part of my journey that I’ll enjoy will definitely be having seen Drake Bell’s abs.

Admittedly, there was some annoyances. Throwing open bottles was definitely one of them (yes, I’m hoping this doesn’t stain) and apparently there was an accident where the performers ate the student helpers Chipotle and gave them pizza in return (yes, I have no idea how that happened). However, even if you hated the heat, wished you could’ve gone to class, or just somehow didn’t enjoy yourself, take a second to think about the importance of events like this for high schools. More exposure to ideas like this give the administration of our school and others insight into what makes students happy and motivated to learn.

“If I can help you be creative, that’s important to me,” Cantillon said. I suppose that even after reading this article, it may still be difficult to believe that this was truly an openhearted event without any sort of kickback for our school to have to pay. But the corporations are donating their product to us for free, just to persuade us even more to not give up on our dreams.

These performers and their crew devote their time and money to inspire the new generation of movers and shakers. It sincerely was a festival for student to realize their potential and strive for it. For me, that’s inspirational in of itself.