Education

Warren Schools Report Success of ‘Any Given Child’

WARREN, Ohio – Field trips to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Playhouse, a Mozart symphony at Youngstown State University and an ethnic dinner in Cleveland are among the many learning experiences the students at Willard PK-8 School have enjoyed.

Warren is the only school district in Ohio that has joined with the Any Given Child program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The district is one of only 20 across the country, and the smallest, to partner with the Kennedy Center.

Any Given Child encourages students in kindergarten through eighth grade to be involved in activities in the performing arts every school day.

Local leaders of Any Given Child met Friday with reporters at the Willard PK-8 School, 2020 Willard Ave. SE, to offer an assessment of Warren’s first year.

There Becky Keck, executive director of Students Motivated by the Arts, or Smarts, said one highlight was, “When you look around and see the community members here who have really stuck with supporting the program.”

The Kennedy Center requires $25,000 for a school district to enroll in Any Given Child, and

Warren’s participation has been fully funded by $33,000 in donations from the community and civic organizations.

Warren City Schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro agreed with Keck, “Seeing a group of over 50 people today, who are here to celebrate, learn more, and wish to engage in this process — it’s a great moment because this benefits our kids.”

Keck, Chiaro and others gave high grades to the first year of the Any Given Child in Warren.

Kelsey Mesa, assistant manager for the Kennedy Center, said, “Outcomes of the program include: increased hiring of arts teachers, more opportunities for students to go to performances and visit exhibits at art venues, and create greater collaborations and relationships with art organizations in the community.”

The commitment of the Kennedy Center began a relationship for the Warren school district with Donna Collins, executive director of Ohio Arts Council. The council offers grant funds for the students to experience arts based field trips.

Collins said, “What happens in the future in our communities, really starts with our children.”

During the year, the students at Willard worked with comedian Robert Post through the support of the Ohio Arts Council. They were involved in producing a video for Post’s program “How to Survive Middle School,” created to help students through their years in middle school by showing them, among other things, how to deal with bullying.

Mayor Doug Franklin told why he believes the program is so important. “It gives the students the opportunity to grow and grow creatively, because they’re going to grow either way, but we have to make sure they’re growing creatively in a positive direction.”

Anita Lin of Youngstown, former executive director of Ballet Western Reserve and who serves on the center’s board, worked with Keck to bring the program to the Warren schools last year.

“There were four components that we needed to bring together for the program to work,” Keck said, “the commitment of the city, the school district, the lead arts organizations and liaison.”

Pictured: Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, Smarts director Becky Keck and Warren City Schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.