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Imagining America receives $12,000 Enitiative grant to train Say Yes to Education arts after-school workshop facilitators

September 18, 2009

Jemeli Tanui
(315) 443-5172

Imagining America has been awarded a $12,000 Enitiative grant for 2009-11 to fund its new “Educating After-School Arts Educators” project that aims to train student and community artists to teach their skills to elementary school students.

Imagining AmericaThe after-school arts program is one of 35 new projects that received grants this fall from Enitiative, a collaborative partnership funded by a $3 million, five-year Kauffman Foundation grant that provides contacts, resources and funding support for entrepreneurial projects, while uniting faculty and students of local academic institutions and members of the community.

Imagining America (IA) is a national consortium of more than 80 colleges and universities committed to public scholarship in the arts, humanities and design. Syracuse University is host campus of IA until 2012. IA will use the new funding to create a standard of excellence in arts education by training new employees, both university students and community artists, who are facilitating Say Yes to Education arts after-school workshops in the Syracuse City School system. The new program includes matching the trainees with mentors experienced in teaching their artistic discipline to elementary school students.

Say Yes to Education Inc. is a national, nonprofit education foundation committed to dramatically increasing high school and college graduation rates for inner-city youth. Say Yes provides comprehensive support, including the promise of a full college or vocational education, aligned with what research indicates is needed to enable every child in the program to achieve his or her potential.

The Syracuse Say Yes to Education program, which launched in 2008, is the first district-wide program of this scale in the nation, made possible by a partnership between Say Yes to Education Inc., the Syracuse City School District and Syracuse University.

“Say Yes is an extraordinary opportunity for young people, college students and the whole community. We are pleased to support Say Yes by providing additional training for those facilitating the after-school and summer arts component,” says Jan Cohen-Cruz, director of Imagining America and a University professor at SU.

SU’s art education department is developing a community-based art education course for this project that will become a regular part of the art education curriculum at the end of the two-year Enitiative funding.

“Say Yes holds the potential for a promising collaboration with the art education department at SU, offering our undergraduate and graduate students valuable experiential learning opportunities and hands-on curriculum-making experience instructing after-school and summer school visual arts classes,” says James Haywood Rolling, Jr., chair of the art education department in the School of Education and the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). “SCSD students also stand to gain as recent research indicates that a substantive involvement in multi-arts education has a significant impact on lowering the school dropout rate.”

“The importance of this program is that it brings all sectors of our community together in order to embrace our children and encourage them to engage fully in the arts,” says Rachael Gazdick, executive director of the Syracuse Say Yes to Education initiative and assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies in VPA. “This collaboration is yet another example of how the entire city is coming together to develop innovative ways to enhance children’s education in order for them to reach their full potential.”

The after-school arts workshops will take place in the Syracuse City School system, with elementary after-school programs on the South and Westside (2009-10) and, in 2010-11, also the East Side neighborhoods. The training will be free to Say Yes community artists and students, who may receive one or two credit hours for the course.

“This grant is a demonstration that validates all forms of knowledge as it will allow us to incorporate community-based artists in the Say Yes arts programming by providing them options for support and training in how to best share their knowledge and skills with students,” says Kheli Willetts, executive director of the Community Folk Art Center, the arts provider for the teaching artists working for the Say Yes program. Willetts is also assistant professor of African American art history and film in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences African American studies department.

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