Center for Community Arts Partnerships: Community Schools Initiative
The idea behind the Community Schools model is to bring underresourced schools together with community partners and families to provide high-quality programs that serve the whole child, while enriching students’ educational experiences. This concept is taking a variety of forms around the country. In the Windy City, Columbia College Chicago—one of the nation’s largest private arts and media colleges—has become a national leader in implementing the Community Schools model with an arts focus.
Through the Community Schools Initiative of the Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP), the college provides a full-time representative at each of five partner schools to coordinate programs, resources, and personnel. The program is able to tap full-time faculty, as well as part-time college instructors, many of whom are working artists in the community, to teach in the schools. The program also involves college students as mentors and tutors. Students are able to choose from a variety of subjects, including after-school dance, theater, and poetry classes, as well as rock-and-roll bands. Some sessions, like a multigenerational photography/film/storytelling workshop, are oriented toward families. The arts activities link with the school curriculum to support classroom learning. The college also brings young people to its campus for end-of-semester performances or exhibitions, exposing them to possibilities for higher education.
The partnership allows the college to meet the civic-engagement and cooperative-learning aspects of its mission.
“We provide a laboratory for learning for faculty and students at the college; we create service learning components for courses; and we provide mentorship and internship opportunities,” explains CCAP Executive Director David Flatley. “It’s really an exciting way to engage the students and faculty and to leverage the resources and expertise at the college.”
The arts partnership has been linked with improvements in students’ attendance and classroom participation. Flatley believes that happens because students find rewarding outlets for expression through the arts, as well as opportunities to bond with artist-mentors, “who serve as role models and encourage them to think in new ways.”
The Center for Community Arts Partnerships’ Community Schools Initiative has crafted a highly effective model of college/community partnership to ensure that the resources of Columbia College Chicago are available and accessible to young people and communities most often bypassed by arts education efforts.Suzanne Doornbos Kerbow Associate Director, Polk Bros. Foundation