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Education / 2013

The HeArt Project: Arts Education ends the Dropout Crisis in LA

The HeArt Project: Arts Education ends the Dropout Crisis in LA

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by The HeArt Project

The HeArt Project aims to end Los Angeles' high school dropout crisis by bringing the arts and artists to 650 of the most vulnerable teenagers in Los Angeles. The HeArt Project leverages the resources and expertise of its partners -- working artists and creative professionals, cultural centers, and colleges/universities -- to offer a four-step "ladder" of increasingly advanced arts opportunities to youth who otherwise would have no arts in their education. The HP ladder is: Level 1 -- arts workshops and student exhibitions at cultural centers; Level 2 -- after-school art residencies and leadership development; Level 3 -- scholarships to conservatory-style art programs for high school students on college campuses; and Level 4 -- mentorship, internships, and scholarships for high school graduates. Through HP's advanced programs, students connect a high school diploma with creative careers and gain the 21st century work skills and confidence to pursue these opportunities. HP also runs the arts programming at the Hollywood Media Arts Academy, launched in 2010 in partnership with the L.A. County Office of Education.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Started in 1992 at one site with a budget of $2,000, HP now serves 650 students in 25 school sites throughout three school districts with an operating budget of $1.2M. Our long-term arts programs reach communities and students who otherwise lack access to the arts, proven to be one of the most effective ways to engage teenagers in their education and community. Our professional artists teach real-world skills needed in today’s creative economy, and impart a sense of confidence and purpose that leads to graduating from high school with a plan for the future.

Highlights of our recent achievements include:

Responding to an increasingly urgent need to address the high school dropout crisis, The HeArt Project partnered with the LA County Office of Education to open the Hollywood Media Arts Academy (HMAA), an alternative arts high school for students at high risk of dropping out. The Academy celebrated its 2nd anniversary in August 2012.

An important measure of the success is how many students advance from Level 1 to Level 2 and participate and complete HP’s advanced levels. In the past two years, HP has had its largest cohorts ever participate in these advanced levels, and this year, for the first time, all Level 2 arts residency students applied for Level 3 summer arts scholarships.

As students advance up HP’s program, they continue to realize more successes in the larger community. Since July 2012, HP students have: Enrolled in West LA College’s Communications, Entertainment, and Media Arts Division in a partnership program with Hollywood CPR, an entertainment industry training program.
Performed at REDCAT with the CalArts CAP Program Attended Earthwatch Institute’s Los Angeles Student Fellowship Program on scholarship and studied the Diamondback Terrapin turtle in New Jersey. It was this teenager’s first time on an airplane. Our first student was accepted into the Ryman Arts Program, a rigorous and highly selective classical arts training program for teens. Been accepted into the Mark Taper Forum’s Young Ambassadors program

Scholarships have traditionally taken place in the summers, but this past fall, HP has an unprecedented 8 students participating in advanced programs - 6 at Art Center’s Saturday High and their college-level program Art Center at Night; one at the Taper, one in Ryman Arts.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Based on a partnership model of connecting students to Los Angeles through the arts, The HeArt Project has worked with nearly every major cultural institution including The Getty Center and Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Natural History Museum, UCLA, The Autry National Center, the Los Angeles Opera, SCI-Arc, Japanese American National Museum, The Museum of Tolerance, and The Huntington Library. Thanks to our partnerships with professional award-winning artists from a wide range of creative practices, our students have been exposed to nearly every artistic discipline, among them painting, photography, African dance, graphic design, urban planning, assemblage, music, oral histories, fashion d

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

The HeArt Project uses qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate student progress and outcomes. Teaching artists, workshop coordinators, and classroom teachers provide a consistent presence during each workshop and after school residency, and are able to work together to note improvements and challenges in student performance during the workshop cycle. HP also administers an online qualitative assessment tool that was recently developed under the guidance of a professional evaluator and in collaboration with educators. The tool measures students’ progress over time across multiple learning outcomes: social learning, aesthetic/creative learning, subject-based/content learning, and school and community learning. These outcomes correlate with preparedness for the 21st century creative economy as well as dropout prevention risk reduction. According to this assessment, 74% of students felt that HP changed their attitude towards learning at least somewhat, and 87% felt that their participation in HP encouraged them to stay in school. HP also tracks the number of students who participate and complete each level.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

HP is one of the only arts organizations in L.A. that works exclusively with alternative high school students. Students attend alternative high schools (continuation and community day schools) for reasons including failing grades and behavioral problems, teen pregnancy/parenting, gang involvement, expulsion from their home school districts, or prior incarceration. Most are low-income minorities, and all are at high risk of dropping out for good. Our students have experienced high levels of transience and failure, perceive a lack of future possibilities, and have difficulty recognizing the value of their contributions and connection to others. As a result they are often unable to envision a future where they embark on fulfilling careers, feel a meaningful connection to their community, or identify and pursue substantive goals.

We have witnessed through the years – and research in the field supports our experience – that the arts are a particularly effective mechanism to inspire hard-to-reach youth. Many HP students are part of rampant cycles of poverty, gang involvement and violence that perpetuate themselves within their families and communities. HP helps students help themselves and chart a new course in life. HP students connect with professional mentors, contribute to a positive peer network, graduate high school, and pursue substantive goals. By investing in their own potential, these teenagers transform into fulfilled and responsible adults with a stake in their communities.

HP’s work is significantly underscored by a major report just recently released from the National Endowment for the Arts, “Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth” (2012), which compiles findings from four longitudinal studies. One example from the study is that in two separate databases, students who had arts-rich experiences in high school showed higher overall GPAs than did students who lacked those experiences. And further, high school students who earned few or no arts credits were five times more likely not to have graduated than students who earned many arts credits. This significant effect of the arts on the graduation rate of at-risk teenagers mirrors what we have witnessed in our 20 years of service.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Success for our idea in the year 2050 would be the elimination of the high school dropout crisis, with high quality arts education being offered to each and every student in every public and private school across Los Angeles. Success would include the placement of each and every one of the students we serve in job opportunities/internships in the creative economy.