Photos courtesy of Dramatic Results.
While September marks the first month back to school for thousands of Long Beach students, September 13 through 19 also marks National Arts in Education Week, a nationwide celebration recognizing the importance of art to providing students with a well-rounded education.
Just five years ago, the U.S. House of Representatives designated the second week of September as National Arts in Education Week, stating that art is an "essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students." The week-long celebration is about bringing more awareness to a necessary facet of every child's education.
Locally and for nearly 25 years, the education organization Dramatic Results has brought unique and measurably effective art-based curriculum that integrates traditional art into other core academic subjects (such as math and science), meeting California content standards and the needs of Long Beach's diverse student population.
According to Dramatic Results, just last year, 653 K-5 students who participated in Dramatic Results programs at Barton Elementary, LBUSD’s lowest performing school, showed a 14-point gain in their academic performance, an 11-point gain in their persistence and a 15-point gain in their creativity.
To support arts education in LBUSD schools in 2015/16, Dramatic Results has raised almost $1 million to serve more than 1,300 K-5 students in Title 1 Elementary/K-8 schools. Further proof of the success of Dramatic Results’ programs is a $2 million grant it received last fall from the U.S. Department of Education to integrate iPad technology with their award-winning Math in a Basket program.
Christi Wilkins, who founded Dramatic Results in 1992, knows a thing or two about struggling to learn. Born in the United States to American parents, Wilkins spent the first seven years of her life living in Iran, being raised as a Farsi-speaking Muslim during the Shah's regime.
"Returning to the U.S. at the height of the Vietnam war, I was quickly labeled as 'mentally challenged' by the California educational system because I did not speak English, nor did I understand enough American culture to pass the IQ test," Wilkins explained.
Her struggle to learn English and to adjust to American culture eventually led to her dropping out of school at the young age of 15, getting a GED and taking seven years to earn a B.A. degree in sociology. What saved her life she says, were three educators who used art to help her work though these obstacles. Two teachers and a librarian who "engaged her curiosity to become a life-long learner and productive member of society."
With a gift from her mother of $2,500, who also challenged her to "turn your past into something good for others," Dramatic Results was born.
"My passion is to create opportunities for our neediest students to experience the power of art and education as a bridge to success," she said.
Since that blessed day in '92, Wilkins has turned her mother's gift into $17 million in grants to serve more than 20,000 LBUSD, Compton and Native Alaskan students. The organization is now a nationally recognized, award-winning nonprofit educational arts agency that delivers in-school, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) programs.
According to Wilkins, Dramatic Results is also poised to assist students on the national level, with a recently granted $2 million from the United States Department of Education to build a platform to integrate the organization's programs with 3D technology. Currently the nonprofit serves 1,200 K-5 students per year in LBUSD Title I schools.
"Dramatic Results is especially effective with 'difficult' students because we engage their hands, minds and hearts," said Wilkins. "And, the results are dramatic: 75 [percent] of our students outperform their peers in math, divergent thinking, persistence and teamwork."
Wilkins added that, to celebrate National Arts in Education Week, the nonprofit is simply doing their best to spread the word that these resources are available to every Long Beach student, regardless of socio-economic status or geography.
For more information, visit the Dramatic Results site here. Dramatic Results is located at 3310 Lime Avenue and can be reached via phone at 562.595.4600.