The dismal news coming from Dade Middle School in recent months may be technically accurate, but it doesn’t paint a complete picture of the Dade that I know.When I think about Dade, I see the many dedicated students who show up day after day and, despite the chaos of food fights, leadership changes and police pepper-spraying of unruly students, give their all to their education. I think of committed faculty members like Shirlie Whitted-Atkins and Lance Williams who give 150 percent to students by staying after school and even showing up on weekends to help with tutoring and community programs. I think about the committed group of parents and faculty members who meet regularly to craft solutions to problems at the school, problems that stem from the students’ poverty. 

For this past year, my organization — Make Art with Purpose, or MAP — has partnered with Dade to produce arts education projects that uplift students by providing them with meaningful, creative activities that foster learning and positive change. Having developed arts education programs for over two decades, I have seen time and time again the positive impact that these programs have on youth. At-risk students who have access to the arts in or out of school earn better grades, have higher rates of college enrollment and are more civically engaged, according to The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth, a 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

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Image: MAP Dade Dialogues on Race mural created by Dade Middle School students