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A Little Arts Advocacy Goes a Long Way

Young violinist Annika Jenkins effectively campaigned for the creation of the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach.

Annika, 16, has been a local advocate for music and the arts for over 7 years. From writing letters to her newspaper to supporting attendance at classical concerts, Annika has become well known as an arts leader throughout her hometown of Virginia Beach. One particularly large success in her advocacy path has impacted her community in a unique way – the creation of a performing arts center.

Annika’s journey as a local arts heroine began in 2004 when she heard that her city was tearing down the main arts venue. Due to budget restrictions, the city council was in the midst of a debate about building a new center. At just 9 years old, Annika was moved to help in any way that she could – “I brought a teddy bear animal cracker jar that I filled with dimes and coins that I had collected from pockets and my friends and I put the jar on the podium and said a few words. Then I pulled my violin out and played.”

Her performance and speech won over the hearts of the city council members and enough votes were cast in favor of the project for it to move forward. From the start of construction until well after the Sandler Center opened its doors for the first time, Annika was heavily involved. To raise money for the project, she collected donations from the community and even contributed her own earnings from music awards, poetry prizes, and articles that she had published in children’s journals.

At the groundbreaking ceremony in 2005, Annika was asked to give a speech on behalf of the youth and the arts in Virginia Beach. She even shared a shovel with Mayor Oberndorf (pictured). Annika was a featured performer in both the Dedication Ceremony and the Town Center City Club fundraiser that encouraged donations for naming rights of the performance center. At the Opening Night Gala Ceremony, Mayor Oberndorf called her onstage before Itzhak Perlman’s performance to award her a key to the Sandler Center.

It’s no surprise that Annika was ecstatic to be featured on From the Top’s Show 234 taping at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. From the Top’s appearance at “her” beloved arts center, which often has a full house for events, illustrates the clear success and impact of her efforts within the community. Annika’s passionate quote is an inspiring message of arts leadership: “If you have enough courage to dream great dreams, you have courage enough to make your dreams come true.”