It has almost been a year since the Madison Park Times article, “From Conflict to Community,” was published. The article highlighted the history, challenges, success, and aspirations of the MLK FAME Community Center. As a long time arts educator, artistic director of Ewajo Dance Workshop located in Madison Valley for 15 years and youth arts coordinator at MLK, I am excited and inspired by the progress over the past year.
Since January 2012, there has been a successful and well-attended after school and summer program. It is designed so each student is introduced to dance, music, theatre, and visual arts within a 12-week session. The age range is 5 – 15 years. It is fun, energetic and open to all levels.
Having taught for many years and seeing programs come and go, you get used to the status quo and what it brings. Closing the achievement gap and students having equal access to resources has been a prime topic of discussion and debate for a while. Having taught youth from public and private schools and different socioeconomic backgrounds, I see how vital it is to create an environment that excites, challenges, and emphasizes equal contribution from all participants.
This summer we had a group of students from CAYA (Central Area Youth Association) and the Valley School learn, practice, and perform traditional Caribbean rhythms and songs on the steel pans (the main percussion instrument in the Trinidadian Carnival festivities). They had to work together supporting and encouraging each other while focusing on playing as an ensemble. The end result was extremely inspiring and boosted self esteem for all the students. I feel that before an achievement gap is closed, there must be a common interest and consistent interaction over a period of time. This created camaraderie and a sense that their capabilities are the same. The creativity and excitement of the performing arts makes it the perfect medium to achieve this.