The Riverzedge Arts™ studio programs represent the core of our organization. Four days a week, approximately 50 Woonsocket youth come to work in their studios, mostly to complete projects for our many clients. While they are technically not “employees,” studio members are more than just participants.
Studio members receive an hourly stipend in exchange for their participation, regardless of whether they are working on client projects or not. And whether or not they are working on client projects, they are working.
High Expectations, Excellent Results
Riverzedge Arts sets exceptionally high expectations, often for the first time in our participants’ lives. They think of Riverzedge Arts as their job and refer to it coming here as “being at work.” Our demands are not just that they deliver the required outputs, but that those outputs reach truly professional levels of quality.
To give the participants the tools they need to deliver professional work, each studio director brings a deep expertise in his or her field. As the Wallace Foundation’s Something to Say report found, one key to our success is that each of our studio directors had earned the respect of his or her participants by demonstrating and sharing this expertise.
The expectations go beyond their time in studio. All participants must maintain a C average in school or complete GED coursework and pass the GED exam. Thus, Riverzedge Arts boasts a 100% graduation rate for our participants. Virtually all of our participants continue their education in college or another post-secondary training environment.
Proof of Commitment
Before youth participants are considered a full-fledged members of a studio, they must first prove their commitment to our programs. This begins with a 72-work-hour probationary period. These hours are considered “community service” for the purposes of high school graduation requirements. More importantly, this is a period in which the prospective studio members demonstrate their ability to:
- Arrive consistently and punctually
- Behave in a respectful, professional manner
- Work collaboratively with other studio members
- Accept instruction and constructive criticism from their studio director and from their peers
- Continuously improve their skills and the quality of their work
With perfect attendance, the probationary period lasts the better part of two months. This is long enough to show that a prospective participant has what it takes to succeed at Riverzedge Arts. And it’s long enough for the participant to recognize the unique opportunity the our studio programs represent.
Because we use this technique, virtually all participants that complete their 72 hours continue in their studios until they have graduated from high school or completed their GED. Thus, our studio programs have very low turnover rates and correspondingly long waiting lists.