High schools everywhere are searching for all the students who didn’t return after the pandemic. And for those who have come back, keeping them engaged and on a path to graduation is paramount. We offer robust art programs to get kids excited about school. For some, it opens their eyes to a possible career in the arts.

“One of my favorite things about teaching art is seeing students come in with no confidence whatsoever, and then a light comes on and they start to push themselves,” said Tara Holeman, art teacher at Learn4Life in Fresno. “And that confidence spills over into academics and it becomes the reason they come to school…it gets them in the door.”

Like student Sandra S., who was very shy and quiet when she first transferred here and she didn’t regularly come in to meet with her teachers. Since we offer a flexible schedule, our staff keeps close tabs on each student to make sure they’re completing assignments and coming in regularly to meet with teachers and tutors.

“She loves the art class and we’ve seen her improve in drawing, which gives her a sense of pride from creating something beautiful,” Holeman said. “Now she comes to school more often and has created a portfolio of her drawings. Sandra recently entered her work in the Fresno Art Fair and earned a second place!”

In traditional high schools, often when students are falling behind in credits, they have to give up the fun electives and take more core classes until they catch up – which Holeman points out can have the opposite effect.

“When you take away electives like art and music, you’re de-motivating the students. Our art room is their safe space where they learn to trust us, share, discover how to express themselves. Yes, they’re getting credit, but they’re also learning about themselves.”

March is Youth Art Month, a time to promote art education in schools. A recent study by the Arts Education Partnership shows that including the arts in required coursework as an intervention strategy may reduce the dropout rate in at-risk populations.  And other studies indicate that students who engage in arts classes perform better in math, reading and writing.

Holeman is pleased to see the focus on STEM shifting toward STEAM to include arts.

“The arts help kids expand their curiosity and imagination – skills that are essential in any career they choose,” Holeman points out. “Plus, they grow their communications and interpersonal skills.”

Written By:
Ann Abajian
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