April 24th, Woonsocket, RI—Teens in Woonsocket are looking out for each other. As part of a new joint program, youth from Beacon Founders Academy are being paired with older teen artists at Riverzedge Arts to give them a head start in art and design careers.
The youth will work collaboratively under the direction of professional artist-instructors to learn industry-standard skills and technology in one of Riverzedge Arts’ specialty fields. The Mentoring in the Arts Program (MAP) allows high-school aged teens to develop leadership and mentorship experience in their specialty fields while giving middle school teens a chance to get ahead in fields like graphic design, photography, screen printing, painting, woodworking, and more.
“The focus of this program,” says Riverzedge Arts’ Executive Director, Kristen Williams, “is empowering our youth to create positive learning communities. When teens have a chance to work together in our studios, we see richer social-emotional learning, more favorable attitudes toward school, and overall improvements in both career readiness and classroom performance.”
And Williams argues this program is needed now more than ever, as Woonsocket youth face systemic barriers that have only intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic. “By working with Beacon to reach youth even earlier than our core program has traditionally done, we hope to make a critical intervention for youth in Woonsocket who are statistically outperformed on state and national levels.”
In the words of Beacon Founders Academy Principal Cindy Giroux, “Founders Academy is so excited about this new opportunity for our students. We hope that the students involved in the mentoring program will be empowered to become leaders and positive role models in our school community. Through this partnership with Riverzedge Arts, we will also enhance our focus on the arts at Founders Academy and the Woonsocket community.”
Launching on May15th, the initial program will pair 10 Beacon Founders youth with 11 Riverzedge Arts teens, with meetings scheduled every other week over the course of the 18-week program.