Tomas Leal has been with In Progress since the very beginning when we first met him in Crookston Minnesota in 1996. He is now a professional photographer, teaching artist, parent, and by day a paraprofessional dedicated to working with youth.
1. Considering all your experience with In Progress, what is one achievement that you personally are most proud of? Why is this achievement important to you? What does it represent?: My best achievement with IP is my Career Path, even though I didn't know it at the time. I did art more as a hobby. Through working with Kris and IP by doing, then teaching and internships I was able to began working in that way. I was able to do photography, video and then college getting my BA and on to full circle. I am now an instructor, lead photographer and doing the family photos.Through my career path that IP put me on, I was put into a position of stability, getting an ability to provide for my family. It represents me, as an artist, teacher, role model and community leader. Maybe not up front, but folks come to me and look up to me differently.
2. What did it take for us at In Progress to achieve this accomplishment? What strengths do we have that helped us succeed?: It took IP Never Giving Up on Me. There were times that I really messed up and was a big disappointment, a lot of other groups would have been done with me. IP always had an open door, arms, way of never giving up. He sees it with others and knows he's been there. One of IP's strengths is that it continues to tap into areas that others don't. Others might have programs might have strict policies or strict rules that say they won't do...whatever. With IP you could just walk in. That open door allows the youth to be come in, the youth to learn, the youth to be creative, that youth's voice to being heard, the youth's issue that might be bothering them, and then of course the affirmation of that youths identity. Like with me, I walked out, and Kris said " you gotta write what you want to create" So she encourages the process to being creative. - ownership
3. What do you think makes In Progress unique? What 2-3 things are at our very core that make us stand out from other arts programs or youth development programs?: IP is unique of course because of the open door, but also we are really like a family. We share meals, conversation, build relationships and learn to love the people around us. I have been working for a long time and I still don't have those kinds of relationships with the people I work with. I think that the open door the ability to teach. Kris is always right there willing to help. Other organizations the head person is stuck in an office somewhere. And everybody has there own idea of what is art, creativity, voice and they are allowed to be heard. May not fit on the board, but through Kris a lot of IP has come from "US". by listening and working with US. Other organizations follow guidelines or rules or law and won't encourage or allow good things to happen.
4. As you think about In Progress, what do you value most? What keeps you engaged here?: I value everything I have mentioned and then some. IP feeds me not only physically but metaphorically too. It feeds me creatively, physically, friendship, and laughter and ideas that contribute to me being who I am . As I strive to be a better man, father, teacher, artist. With IP I am able to practice as I teach. to keep going to do. Always a "Plate" for him to be able to eat. To do a project a class, my own practica, or go do music or video