Melissa Moore is many things: musician, artist, designer, teacher, youth-advocate and proponent of social justice.
When she thought about what she really wanted to do in life, Moore couldn’t pick just one of those things. So she decided to combine as many as possible.
The result? Y-LLEAD—an after-school program that uses design to educate, empower and engage youth. The program, which stands for Youth Learning Lab of Education and Applied Design, will work with middle and high school students at the Baltimore Design School, as well as youth in surrounding neighborhoods, to use design to develop and implement socially-conscious community projects.
Moore, a former science and math teacher, will use her Community Fellowship to help get the program up and running in the coming months.
At Y-LLEAD, Moore’s students will pick a project that means something to them and to their community. They will work over a semester to see that project through to the end, using art concepts and design skills that they already are learning in school, such as architecture, graphic design and product design.
Baltimore Design School is a middle/high school in the Station North Arts District that focuses on three areas of design: fashion design, architecture, and graphic design.
“The projects will build on what they are already learning, but we’ll be translating the work into real life situations by taking it out of the school building,” Moore says. “For example, it might be something like learning to use software to design a poster campaign to bring more attention to homelessness in their neighborhood, or to talk about racism.”
Race is a topic that is particularly of interest to Moore, especially when it comes to teaching city kids about the melding of science and art that is design.
As a designer who is African American and a woman, Moore says she knows that there are a disproportionate number of female role models in the design disciplines, and many youth in the city’s most underserved communities lack access to the skill-building and rigorous academic development needed to compete in the fields of architecture and design.
“There are very, very few folks in the design world who are black,” Moore says. “There are slightly more represented in graphic design and architecture and less in the product design field. I am a black product designer. I would like youth to know that these are possible career paths that are open to them.”
More hopes to forge meaningful one-on-one relationships between herself and her students and volunteers, so classes will serve 10-15 students a semester.
“My philosophy of education is about being a guide and having youth lead and discover for themselves what they are most interested in,” Moore says. “Y-LLEAD is designed to empower youth to be more confident, lifelong learners and problem solvers, while at the same time to use the creative capital of youth to do things in the community that make a positive impact.”