LAUSD launches arts program to help students graduate

Facing a high dropout rate, LAUSD creates inclusive arts programs for students experiencing social and economic problems.

Creativity often serves as an outlet for people living in difficult circumstances or experiencing mental stress — two major reasons for students dropping out of schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District, or LAUSD, hopes to help these students by supporting weekly art, film, design or photography classes.

The board president of the LAUSD launched the Design and Media Arts Academy at Central High School Tri-C CDS in South Central Los Angeles today in partnership with artworxLA.

"Art is a leverage to get students involved in school and to show them how we can integrate multiple disciplines," said the school's principal Helene Cameron. "It's a buy-in to be reintegrated in school…When they graduate from us, they are ready to go to a four-year or two year [college] or onto a career depending on their interests."

According to the most recent data from the state Department of Education, dropout rates between middle and high school are at their highest in decades. In 2016, the rate increased 576 percent between eighth and ninth grade.

The program hopes to stem the dropout rate by introducing eight hours of art classes every week.

Lamar Outlaw is one of the students enrolled in the program who had previously experienced difficulties because he "got mixed up with the wrong crowd."

"It [the program] showed me how to change my behavior to better myself and my future and to live in a more positive way than the past," he said.

Cameron said that the program will provide adequate support to students who are experiencing homelessness, have mental health issues, are out on probation or simply haven't been successful in a regular schooling program.

The program first started in a Skid Row community center and soon grew into LAUSD’s alternative educational options program. In 2010, artworxLA inaugurated the first alternative education academy in Los Angeles after partnering with the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

"A program like this where eight hours of inspiration come through art and support is an example of why LA Unified has to continue to work with every partner in the city to help us celebrate the shared responsibility of getting our children to that graduation level," said Monica Garcia, the board president of LAUSD. "These kids need us to meet them where they're at and to see the possibility of their success."

Garcia said that LA Unified will be working to further support and uplift young people in who might be finding it hard to focus on academics because they are caught up in situations of economic poverty and social disruption.