It is my pleasure to welcome you to Meadow Homes Elementary School for “The Value of Arts Education: A Conversation with Students and Parents”. Today you will hear from extraordinary Latino leaders who will share their incredible journeys of hard work, perseverance, and passion through and for the arts. You will also learn about why it is now, more than ever, critical for everyone—from educators and policy makers to celebrities and business leaders—to come together to support continued investments in arts education across the country.
As a singer, songwriter, actor, and producer, I am deeply committed to ensuring the transformation taking place here, at Meadow Homes, and on a grander scale, the work the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities is championing through the Turnaround Arts Initiative. Engagement in music and the arts is critical to every child’s education.
We live in a country where 3.9 million elementary school students do not have access to arts classes and 1.3 million students do not have access to music classes. This inequity is part of what U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calls “the civil rights issue of our generation”. It is about equity and opportunity. We know that access to an arts education positively impacts the educational outcomes of our most vulnerable youth. A higher participation rate in the arts, for historically disadvantaged students, is associated with lower dropout rates, higher test scores, and increased school attendance.
I am convinced that an education that also leverages the arts will undoubtedly lead to higher student success, especially for Latinos. I am a strong believer in the importance of an arts education and this is why I decided to become a Turnaround Arts Artist. Students need to believe in themselves and know that they will succeed if they work hard. An arts education promotes this mentality and allows students to truly see themselves as our future leaders. I am happy to know I am not alone in my efforts. First Lady Michelle Obama has also recognized how arts education has the power to transform youth. The First Lady and I agree that the cognitive skills that an art education instills in our youth are not only valuable in a studio or theater, but they can also positively impact a child’s experience in classroom and eventually their workplace.
I want to thank the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics for hosting this conversation today and making the efforts to ensure our Latino community has the access and opportunities to excel in their academic and personal lives. To the educators and leaders at Meadow Homes, thank your for your continued leadership and vision. To the students in the audience—never lose sight of your dreams, keep working hard, and lean on your parents and the network around you to succeed and persist through any challenges that come your way. You are the bright spots of your generation and I am proud to support you. I am sorry I cannot join you today but I look forward to our work together. Best wishes for a productive and fantastic session!