The passion and commitment to the arts that Ben Rauth and Khalil Odum demonstrated during their years as Starlight STARS of Tomorrow was evident in March in legislatures at the state and national levels.
The two friends, both seniors at Kansas City’s Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, won the chance to represent Missouri at the National Arts Advocacy Day event on March 20-21 in Washington, D.C. Then, on March 29 they were in Jefferson City for Fine Arts Education Day activities as part of Show-Me Arts, a student-led arts advocacy group founded in 2008.
Starlight Theatre education leaders got to know Ben and Khalil well when they participated as members of our Starlight STARS of Tomorrow student performance troupe. Ben was a STAR for four seasons (2012-15), and Khalil participated for three (2012-14). The two became fast friends.
“Ben was a considerate young man, and Khalil was outgoing and polite,” recalled Andy Pierce, Starlight’s education coordinator. “They always made an effort to get to know the other STARS, welcomed newcomers into the troupe and worked hard to improve their skills.”
While in the nation’s capital last month, Ben and Khalil shared their support for the National Endowment for the Arts and arts education with U.S. Representatives from Missouri, Emanuel Cleaver and Vicky Hartzler, and Missouri Senator Roy Blunt.
Following the visit, Ben noted: “As convincing as our testimonials might have been, the data speaks for itself: one of the only trade surpluses is in the arts (at $32 billion), nonprofit art agencies made $135.2 billion last year, and alternative medicine using arts makes veterans with PTSD able to communicate with their families, helps them succeed in the civilian world, and are credited with more soldiers being able to talk about their experiences.”
Ben and Khalil returned home in time to travel to the Missouri State Capitol to participate in Fine Arts Education Day. Begun in 2004, the purpose of Fine Arts Education Day is to highlight the importance of fine arts education in Missouri schools.
“I was very proud to learn of Ben and Khalil’s public advocacy for the arts,” Starlight education director Amy Reinert-Price said. “Having worked with these fine young gentlemen as part of Starlight’s education programs, I am not surprised by their interest in and commitment to the arts in American society. It is a pleasure to see them take advantage of opportunities to advocate.”