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Youth Arts Program

WMCAT’s Teen Arts Program uses the arts to engage urban teens in making school and career connections. Embracing project-based learning, teen leadership, and civic engagement, the program inspires and moves teens to success in high school and post high school endeavors.
Michigan Nightlight: What really differentiates this program?
WMCAT Development and Communications Manager Amy Knape: WMCAT serves a teen population. We focus on high school students and really strive for high impact. This population is often underrepresented in afterschool programming that goes beyond recreation and homework help. We employ professional artists as teaching artists and mentors; provide teens with high end, professional technology and equipment; and create an environment of acceptance, respect and creativity.
What are the keys to success for your program?
We serve students in a consistent, high impact way. WMCAT is not a drop in arts program. In fall 2013 students will join one of 12 cohorts. Each cohort of 12 students will spend the entire school year working on a common project. They will come to
We focus on high school students and really strive for high impact. This population is often underrepresented in afterschool programming that goes beyond recreation and homework help.
WMCAT two days a week and rotate through photography, fine arts, fiber arts, and digital arts as they explore, create and share their project learnings. This model provides high engagement and impactful relationships with peers and teaching artist mentors. We also elevate the student voice through leadership opportunities like our Teen Advisory Council, a retreat for all students, and autonomy in creating projects.
What existing challenges remain with this program and how do you plan to overcome them?
Many of our students come to WMCAT with existing barriers to school and career success, whether that be poverty, peer influence, family life, or school challenges. We know that we are most successful if we can help them navigate those barriers. This is why we have a Student Services Manager who is responsible for recruitment, retention, and student success. This team member meets with each student regularly to assess progress in school and external needs. Our Student Services Manager also works closely with high school guidance counselors to ensure our WMCAT students are on track for graduation; refers students to area resources; and plans personal development workshops and experiences for all WMCAT teen students.
How does your program address issues of economic, educational, racial equity? The WMCAT Teen Arts Program is open to every high school student in Grand Rapids Public Schools, regardless of economic, racial or cultural identity. The
Students who are engaged, valued, and inspired will work hard for their futures.
program is capped at 144 students. Through the application process we strive for diversity in each cohort.
Do you see the connection between arts education and academic achievement with the students you work with in your program? If so, how?
Absolutely. At WMCAT we are not training professional artists or preparing students for art school. In fact, most of our students pursue other career paths. We leverage the arts to connect with students, help them apply creativity to school and career success, and foster leadership and self-awareness. In Grand Rapids Public Schools only 47 percent of freshman who enter the district graduate four years later. We are committed to working with the district to change that. At WMCAT, 96 percent of our seniors graduated last year. Students who are engaged, valued, and inspired will work hard for their futures.
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  • West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology
    The mission of West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology is to provide a culture of opportunity for people to make social and economic progress in their lives and community.


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