Busta’s Person of the Week: Blowing away stereotypes

Busta’s Person of the Week: Blowing away stereotypes
April 26
08:49 2018

By Busta Brown

“Glass blowing saved my life, because of where I was headed in life. I was about to get kicked out of college, and I could have gone down a bad path; maybe drugs and not a professional path.”

Rebecca Byer went on to say that glass blowing was literally a magical healing drug during a bad time in her life.

“It was what I needed when I needed it and it’s because of that I wanted to teach kids like me who were struggling, and who didn’t like textbooks and traditional classrooms.”

Rebecca Byer is the CEO of The Olio, a glass blowing studio and social enterprise focused on community, arts, empowerment and sustainability. It features a Youth Apprentice Program for 14-24 year-olds facing barriers. She loves glass blowing; she knew that teaching it was her calling.

“I love glass blowing but I’m not a great glass blower, but I am at teaching it, and I think it’s important for the youth I work with. It’s a healing tool.” The youth Rebecca works with comes from all walks of life. “We have high school dropouts, kids from foster care, kids that’s had drug addictions. They have so much potential and so much that’s locked up in them, but from whatever their own barriers they can’t get it out.” I could see her tearing up as she talked about the precious young men and women in The Apprentice Program.

“It doesn’t matter to me what their background is or troubles they’ve been in before. I want anybody that’s experienced some kind of trouble to walk in here and do something that will ignite something for themselves. This is a judgment-free zone.”

Byer’s parents were very successful entrepreneurs that lost everything in a fire when she was only 10 years old. After rebounding mentally and getting their business back on track, they were hit with another blow. Her brother passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) at the young age of 38. Her parents are a great example of; it’s not what we go through, but how we choose to get through it. Byer used her parents’ strength to become a phenomenal and strong woman, with a passion to help others.

Through Olio, she’s paying it forward. “The Apprentice Program teaches product development and inventory, things it takes to run a business. Our apprentices know that we trust them, and feel that they have something to offer, and that’s very important with building their confidence.”

Glass blowing truly helps the apprentices with mental and professional development. It also teaches them not to give up under pressure, and how to endure until the job is done. You can’t put it down and pick it back up said Byer. “You have to start and stop in one experience. It really forces you to plan ahead,” said Byer. I personally love the teamwork and communication skills glass blowing teaches the youth in the program, and the details and focus that is needed to create the beautiful artwork you can see at The Olio Studio in Winston-Salem.

Rebecca and her staff subsidize all of the cost for the studio, “… but when you come in and purchase something, you’re buying into our mission to help the youth continue to learn this fantastic trade.”

For more info, call Rebecca Byer at (336) 406-2937.

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