A new education initiative in North Texas is preparing students for future opportunities in the arts industry. Verdigris Ensemble’s Student Leadership Cohort was established in the fall of 2021 and helps students explore business infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and artistry.

Micaela Bottari created the program and acts as the Verdigris Ensemble’s education and development manager, NBC 5 reported.

W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy houses the program, which caters to 15 students between the ages of 14 and 18. Most students in the program are from Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center and plan on applying for college.

“It’s a pivotal time in deciding how you’re going to move forward in your life,” Bottari said. “This program is, in my mind, an opportunity to not only help them pose questions about what they want out of their artistic careers [but] also give them the tools to realize if they don’t follow that path into an institution [or] into a college program, they still have those skills.”

Participants have shown interest in various fields of the arts, from music to modeling, Bottari said. Staff and board members act as mentors.

Verdigris Ensemble offers workshops featuring professional artists who provide career advice and insight to students.

“It’s important to share those stories so that the students have an opportunity to link goals with people,” Bottari explained.

The idea for the Student Leadership Cohort was inspired by gaps Bottari saw in her education.

“I left college; I have a classical music degree and I essentially could get work as a choral singer anywhere,” she said, “but I had very little knowledge about how to start my own artistic project, start a band, start an organization, anything along those lines.”

Bottari also wanted to show budding artists how the nonprofit sector works.

“It seems crazy to me that we don’t teach anybody how that structure works,” Bottari said.

The leadership program allows four students to sit on the board as a secretary, treasurer, president, and vice president. Interested students gave a two-minute pitch to be considered.

Angela Gomez, a senior from Townview High School, spoke to NBC 5 about her experience in the cohort and her pitch for board membership.

“I wanted to get the experience of handling different components of a board,” Gomez explained.

Gomez forgot her prepared speech, gave an improvised one encompassing her professional desires, and was chosen to serve as president.

She plans to pursue a future in sustainable architecture but stated the Student Leadership Cohort would help her no matter what she chooses.

“I would say an important skill is never be afraid to reach out to anyone or everyone,” Gomez said. “You never know what connections there might be.”