Augmenting Elementary Education In The Arts With Student Volunteers

Meredith Smith, A&S ’16, founded the Mentorship Through the Arts program—an organization designed to address cuts to dedicated arts programs in America’s public schools following the Great Recession—last semester, with the goal of expanding the offerings at public schools with either no arts programs or limited offerings. The program is offered through the Volunteer and Service Learning Center (VSLC) at Boston College, with Smith’s work continued as she studies abroad by Amy Gribaudo, LGSOE ’15. BC undergraduates can serve as mentors to K-4 students through the program, offering Friday arts workshops at both Charlesview Community Center in Allston and Edison K-8 School in Brighton.

While there was an uptick in arts education across the country following the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which mandated art as a core subject in public schools, the trend has begun to shift backward. Disparities in arts educations persist for schools with a higher percentage of students on a free or reduced lunch. Schools with 75 percent of students or more on free or reduced lunch are 12 percent less likely to have a dedicated arts specialist than those with less than 25 percents of students in the category, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This gap in arts offerings puts students in less privileged schools at a disadvantage, as students involved in the arts are three times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, according to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mentoring Through the Arts allows artists at BC to use their skill sets to address issues of social justice. Smith’s concept offers sustainable improvements to local public schools, helping them provide a well-rounded educational experience to K-4 students.

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor

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