It’s been stated that kindness is the most important tool to spread love among humanity. It is in that same spirit that I am excited to announce our latest partnership with the Ohio Department of Education and the Cincinnati Arts Association, providing at-risk students with after-school programming for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) in the directly impacted communities we serve. The new after-school programming pilot launched in October at two CPS elementary schools, Rothenberg Preparatory School and Oyler Elementary. Students participating in the program will experience tailor-made curriculum that incorporates social and emotional development (SEL) with 21st century learning standards through art integration.

Through the program, students will develop ways to channel their emotions, develop their identities, feel and show empathy for others and make responsible decisions. After dealing with disconnection due to COVID-19’s safety measures and practices, it was important that our educational outreach be intentional about assisting students in developing resiliency and the ability to reconnect with others.

For the past three weeks, I’ve worked with second and third grade students at Rothenberg Preparatory School and Oyler School, teaching them how to channel their creativity, hold space for empathy and engage in positive communication, all while making art. My curriculum was designed to incorporate fun while helping the students feel empowered and in command of their emotions, ultimately helping them to become better problem-solvers and communicators.

I work with students with parents and close family members who are currently incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. The impact of children with incarcerated parents often has long-term effects. They often experience anger, hurt and social stigma. When these emotions are not appropriately channeled, in can result in the child exhibiting inappropriate behavior, which is why Intentional programming like this will help mitigate some challenges with how they are perceived and treated within the criminal legal system. Unfortunately, injustice happens long before people are arrested for many in our community.

I’m proud to stand before the students at Oyler and Rothenberg today. I, myself, was only four or five years older than my students before I dropped out of elementary school due to the chronic homelessness my family and I experienced. This partnership is also a full-circle moment for me.  I received an honorary bachelor’s degree from the Cincinnati Art Academy and now I can give back to the very same community as an arts educator. I am honored and humbled to collaborate with CAA and the Ohio Department of Education on behalf of OJPC for this vital community work.