iLEAD’s Arts Education Continues through Summer Learning
By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator at iLEAD Schools
The “A” in iLEAD stands for the arts, and this summer the arts were alive and well in iLEAD Schools. Multiple Summer Arts Programs took place across several iLEAD school sites and programs.
Fifty-two iLEAD Santa Clarita (SCVi) 2nd-8th graders participated in the summer program five days per week for four weeks. They were led by 24 youth workers, many of whom were current SCVi alumni or Upper School learners.
SCVi hosted five sold-out performances of The Enchanted Bookshop musical July 22-24. The production was directed by iLEAD Lancaster’s musical theatre facilitator Ceron Jones. Sets were built by SCVi alums Sam Fitzgerald and Sam Salters. SCVi facilitator David Ascencio worked with the learners and the team as well.
Every learner had opportunities to participate in the production of the play, according to iLEAD Arts Coordinator Sara McDaniels. The learners got to choose how they wanted to contribute, whether performing, costuming or doing technical work.
“Many learners got the arts fever,” McDaniels said. “They are planning to pursue more arts this school year and beyond.”
In addition to producing the play, learners received weekly instruction in West African drumming and dance from world-renowned Cal Arts instructor Yeko Ladzekpo-Cole.
SCVi was not the only arts hub this summer. At iLEAD Lancaster, 60 learners from iLEAD Antelope Valley and iLEAD Lancaster participated in regular rotations of language arts, math and art enrichment, which included dance, visual arts and more.
McDaniels sees the arts as invaluable experiences for all learners and views opportunities like these summer arts programs as transformational. She said unique programs such as these continually remind all stakeholders that the arts are crucial in terms of deeper and social-emotional learning. She cites data that regularly demonstrates that learners with consistent and quality access to the arts are four times more likely to graduate high school and also more likely to attend and graduate from college.
“They learn time management, collaboration, responsibility, problem-solving, public speaking and adaptability. This is great prep for all they will encounter in the future,” McDaniels said. “We were thrilled to offer this important summer program at no charge to our learners, ensuring that the benefits of arts learning remain accessible to all.”
Families also recognize the value of these programs. One parent named Shara said her child is often shy in public but had exhibited creative and theatrical aptitude at home. “I’m grateful for this opportunity that allowed my child and others to push themselves and grow in this amazing environment,” she said.
Another parent named Lisa said she appreciated the opportunity and the supportive staff. “This has been the highlight of my daughter’s summer, and we hope to have her involved again in the future,” she said.
McDaniels said she hopes to continue summer arts opportunities for iLEAD learners every summer. She said she will continue to maximize grant funding and generous community partners to make it happen.
“The arts is in the iLEAD name and in our DNA,” McDaniels said. “It’s what we do.”