• UO Gives: Attendance Records

    This December, as we celebrate the Grand Opening of our newest UO Space, Space 24 Twenty in Austin, TX, we're also excited for the opportunity to learn more about the local individuals and organizations who are working closely with the community. We're so proud to be able to support Attendance Records, an organization dedicated to bringing creativity back into schools by connecting teachers and students with local writers, artists, and musicians. By providing students with the opportunity to design, write and produce their own album, students build confidence skills that result in discovering what makes them unique. 

    100% of the sales from our all-new UO Journal will go to Attendance Records — the journal brings together stories, art, photography, and style in one place (and also features some of our Austin friends!) For Austin locals, we'll also be selling exclusive Space 24 Twenty tote bags at the Grand Opening event Dec. 4, with all proceeds from the totes benefitting AR.

    Read on for our conversation with their Director Jenna Carrens and to learn more about their ongoing work. 
    Photos by Jessica Pages

    How did Attendance Records start?
    Attendance Records began in 2011 as a response to the drastic budget cuts in public schools. I wanted to create a program that allowed students an outlet for creative expression, as well as an opportunity to see the creative opportunities that already exist in their own community. The overall balance of the program from beginning to end allows students to create something from scratch and make it entirely their own. This includes writing song lyrics, learning about different genres of music, researching and reimagining album art covers, learning about graphic design and distribution, and even creating their own merch by screenprinting their T-shirt designs. 

    Who is involved and what are your backgrounds in?
    Attendance Records is run by Executive Director, Jenna Carrens, and Program Director, Lizzie Buckley. Jenna has nearly 10 years of nonprofit experience and graduated from St. Edward’s University with a B.A. in English Writing and Rhetoric with a Creative Writing emphasis. Lizzie began as an intern in Attendance Records’ first year while finishing up her B.A. in English and ELAR teaching certification for grades 7-12. She is currently working towards her therapist’s license through the MAC program at St. Edward’s University. Both Jenna and Lizzie are heavily involved in the music and arts community in Austin. 

    What all are you working on right now?
    This school year we are at Kealing Middle School with an amazing group of 8th graders! This is the first year we’ve offered our program to middle school students, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to reach more adolescents outside of the high school setting. Our current focus in the classroom is building a sense of community and allowing students to explore themselves through creativity, with the understanding that all of their work will be different and authentic to themselves and their experience. During our first semester, we continue to develop this idea by creating curriculum that invites creativity and expression through creative writing, poetry, and songwriting that extends through the spring. The spring semester will also be art focused, which calls for students to participate in classroom workshops led by a variety of artists, writers, and musicians to ultimately create all the elements of their album. It’s an incredible experience and honor to watch our students grow.

    On December 8th we are hosting our annual Holiday Party at The Mohawk. It’s a fundraiser and we always have a ton of fun with it. Our students write bios and we put those on a giving tree at the event. People at the event can choose a bio and make any type of holiday card they want for that student and we deliver them the next week. 

    We are also working on our band selection for the upcoming album! This year we are opening it up to 12-15 bands to create a one-of-a-kind compilation between our students + local and national bands. 

    Can you share any stories from some particularly memorable experiences, either in the classroom or moments that stand out with students?
    We had a student our first year who was very quiet and had a hard time participating in a lot of our writing activities. We worked one-on-one with him and after finding out that one of his biggest interests was graffiti art, we decided to incorporate that into one of our lessons. I asked this student if he would be interested in coming up with a T-shirt design on his own for Attendance Records and his eyes lit up. The end result was incredible. We loved it so much we brought screenprinters into the classroom, so that all the students could learn how to screenprint his design onto their very own t-shirts. This is something we have incorporated into every program since. We still use his design on our T-shirts and website. 

    How can people learn more + help the cause?
    Visit our website, and support us by donating or signing up to volunteer in the classroom or at events.