In an increasingly polarized society, arts education has become more important than ever. The arts teach students how to relate to others, communicate effectively and devise creative solutions to complex problems. They enable us to recognize that what we have in common is greater than what divides us.

Whether creating art for its therapeutic benefits, as an advocacy tool or for the sheer joy of it, artistic expression puts us more in touch with ourselves and the world around us. An arts education fosters a greater appreciation of other people, places and perspectives. In today’s complex environment, we need more support for the arts, not less.

Yet the value of the arts is increasingly under question, with federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts at risk, and the Minnesota Legislature debating the relevance of Perpich Center for Arts Education. As a graduate of Perpich Center, I firmly believe in the power of the arts to foster the very qualities that will help us to overcome these challenging times. My former classmates have gone on to become writers, computer programmers, actors, scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors and teachers. The arts foster thoughtful, creative and critically thinking citizens able to make a positive impact in their communities.

Being immersed in the arts for two years at Perpich enabled me to strengthen key skills. For my classmates and me from rural communities, Perpich offered us a unique opportunity to live on campus and become fully engaged in the arts and in core academic subjects, such as world literature and honors physics, through an artistic lens.

From studying Advanced Placement calculus to Advanced Placement art history, Perpich expanded my worldview and offered me new possibilities unavailable in my hometown. My teachers supported me, challenged me and encouraged me to reach my highest potential. Studying with students from across the state, my educational experience was enriched by different perspectives and life experiences. I developed meaningful relationships, many of which continue today. Outside of the classroom, I engaged in an arts and culture study tour of Japan, took classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and advanced with the Perpich team to the Mock Trial State Tournament.

Now as a Dean’s Fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, I look back fondly on my time at Perpich. With its invigorating class discussions, modern dance performances, art exhibitions and proximity to the rich art traditions of the Twin Cities, Perpich offers students an unparalleled experience.

As an aspiring diplomat, I’ve relied on my arts education time and again in developing relationships and advancing my work. Whether conducting interviews in Morocco as a Fulbright Scholar or making friends on a business trip to Myanmar, I have established rapport by expressing interest in local art traditions. Developing an appreciation of the arts enables one to meaningfully connect with others, regardless of how different they may appear at first glance.

I believe that our relations with people on a global and local level could be transformed if we possessed a greater understanding of what makes us human, an understanding that is principally fostered through the arts.

A Perpich education has had a similar, yet distinct, impact on over 3,500 Minnesota alumni around the world since the school was founded in 1985. As the relevance of Perpich is debated in the Capitol, I add my voice to those advocating for continued support. Let us partner with Perpich to increase enrollment, improve oversight and expand the institution’s influence in arts education statewide.

Jordyn Arndt is graduate student in the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.