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John Fiske Elementary School lives “through an ethos of family,” states Principal Cynthia Miller.

Fiske holds itself to a high academic standard due to its engagement with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, allowing students to receive an education that focuses on their potential for leadership and curiosity. Before receiving the New Chance Arts and Literature Fund, Fiske was unable to provide students with an art teacher, which made the school ineligible of reaching IB standards. Through the grant, Fiske not only boasts achieving IB Standards, but the increased morale of the student body, and walls filled with the beautiful artwork students have been able to create.

The purpose of the New Chance Arts and Literature fund for Principal Miller, was to ”provide opportunities for black and brown children who would not have the experience of what a real arts program looks like” and ultimately educate the whole child. This desire of Principal Miller and other staff members at Fiske runs deep. For Art teacher Miles Vance, working with young students and seeing their growth over a long period brings him joy. Mr. Vance discusses the importance of having an adequate learning space for his students and captivating their imagination through art. For him, “introducing [students] to projects and materials they haven’t had experience with” provides students with the opportunity to envision careers and a future for themselves. Students at Fiske seem to take this mindset with them inside and outside of the classroom as well.

When asked what she is most proud of, seventh grader Leoneshia Matthews said that it’s “how art’s improved since the last year [she’s] been [at Fisk].” Later, she shows the amazing picture she drew and painted of Chance the Rapper in art class because of how his work has inspired her. For students like Stephon Stevens, art class has “helped [him] calm down” when coming from difficult situations outside of the classroom. These examples alone show the great strides that creativity and the arts have had on the lives of students and their opportunity to envision an alternative way of thinking. As Stephon says, the fund makes an impact on their lives because “Chance wants to help [them] and make [them] do something in life.” More than doing, these students have the opportunity to continue to create art for self-expression and motivation.

Fiske has always been proud of its students, without a doubt.

With new funding however, Principal Miller discusses the importance of the opportunity to finally showcase this talent. She states, “we are passionate about the scholars that we have here. We are passionate because they are black and brown children who look like us. If they don’t get it from us, then who and when? We look at our children as the next generation of leaders, the next mayor, president, doctor, lawyer.” Indeed, the authenticity and drive both staff and students have to continue artistic production shines through. The New Chance Arts and Literature fund has without a doubt left a lasting impact on the work of educators and the ability of Fiske students to envision a future where the arts and creativity co-exist with learning and growth.

Learn more about the New Chance Arts & Literature Fund. You can also learn more about our mission and other initiatives like Warmest Winter Chicago and Open Mike.

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Friday, March 15th
8:00 AM



John Fiske Elementary School


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