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5 NJ and PA Schools Selected as the First Cohort for Young Audiences' Pilot Program of United We Create

Grants to provide arts education programming to promote cultural
understanding and build bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim students

Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ
& Eastern PA
(YA), the region's largest arts education non-profit is pleased to
announce the five schools in NJ and PA that have been chosen to be part
of the inaugural cohort for United We Create, which promotes cultural
understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim students.

United We Create is an arts education program that aligns with character
education, social studies world religion units, and anti-bullying
curriculums. These innovative, arts-centered programs are entry points
for schools to increase positive perceptions of Muslim identities and
build connected communities. Students will explore the history and
culture of a variety of Muslim-majority countries, while recognizing and
uplifting Muslim traditions.

"At YA, we know that arts education is one of the most powerful ways to
combat bullying," Michele Russo, Young Audiences' President & CEO
shared. "When developing this program, we learned more about the
prevalence of religious-based bullying of children of many faiths. The
negative effects of bullying on children, like social isolation and
negative self-perception, can continue into adulthood. In one of the
most diverse areas of the country, we're aware that schools face a
challenge in meeting all the needs they face. _UNITED WE CREATE_ offers
a solution that brings creativity and artistry into the school. Our
arts-based anti-bias activities are designed to build connections
between students, encourage empathy and understanding, teach students
that different does not equal bad, and help students develop positive
perceptions of self and others."

In this pilot year, the United We Create program, is free to five
schools, with each school receiving arts education programs valued at
$8,500. Students, teachers, and families participate through
storytelling, song, drumming, and poetry to learn about Muslim cultures
around the world. These arts-based programs will help to improve
understanding of connections and shared values among different religions
and cultures.

The 2019-2020 participating schools who received the grant are:

   * Eldridge Park Elementary (Lawrence Township, NJ)
   * US Wiggins College Preparatory Lab Family School (Camden, NJ)
   * KIPP Preparatory Academy (Philadelphia, PA)
   * Jay Cooke School (Philadelphia, PA)
   * Imhotep Charter High School (Philadelphia, PA)

Each pilot school will work with a cadre of YA professional teaching
artists to implement:

   * 2 interactive assembly programs for the entire school
   * 8 in-class hands-on workshops
   * 2 professional learning opportunities for educators
   * 1 evening family/community art-making event

YA's hope is that schools participating in the United We Create program
will be able to:

   * Create emotional connections between students by using arts
activities that encourage empathy and understanding, teach students that
differences are to be celebrated, and help students develop positive
perceptions of self and others.
   * Increase students' knowledge about Muslim cultures using the lens of
arts to explore folklore, ethos, and traditions.
   * Provide professional learning opportunities for teachers to learn
strategies for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion grounded in
asset approach pedagogy and aligned with active learning practices.

"Eldridge Park School is so honored to be selected as a pilot school for
this exciting project," shared Debbie Lingel, the music teacher at
Eldridge Park School.  "As a school district, we have been working to
promote equity and foster greater understanding among our students of
all backgrounds.  We believe that the United We Create program is a
perfect way to integrate all of these concepts while also promoting arts
education.  Our involvement will benefit not only our students, but our
staff members and community members as well.  We look forward to working
with Young Audiences on this wonderful new program!"

"We were elated and ecstatic for being selected as a pilot school for
the United We Create program," shared Kelly A. Wharton Davis, 8th grade
inclusion educator at U.S. Wiggins College Preparatory Lab Family
School. "We at U.S. Wiggins value our partnership with Young Audiences
and know our students will benefit from this fully funded arts program.
Our scholars will be engaged with Muslim artists and individuals and
they will develop a new understanding of diversity and the Muslim world.
This project will also help our scholars build a culture of inclusive
learning by communicating with diverse artists of different
ethnicities."

United We Create is made possible through generous funding from the
Building Bridges Program [1], the national grant-making arm of the Doris
Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, an extension of the Doris Duke
Charitable Foundation. [2] Since 2007, the Building Bridges Program has
supported endeavors that engage U.S.-based Muslims and non-Muslims in
arts experiences to increase understanding and advance relationships
between communities.

"We're excited to see this initiative underway," shared Sohaib Sultan,
Muslim Life Coordinator at Princeton University and Arshe Ahmed, Board
Member of the Medina Community Clinic. "It is an extraordinary
opportunity for students to broaden their horizons and their
understanding of the world with stories of Muslim cultures and customs.
This is a hopeful project: the power of storytelling and art to break
down barriers and divisions."

"Helping students come together to understand each others' cultures and
traditions is so important, especially for Muslim students who are often
misunderstood," said Tasneem Sultan, Executive Director of La
Convivencia. "The arts are the perfect way to connect, to celebrate, and
to embrace our differences."

"We are delighted to support Young Audiences Arts for Learning as they
advance cross-community knowledge and connections for the mutual benefit
of young people from diverse religious backgrounds and cultures," said
Zeyba Rahman, senior program officer for the Building Bridges Program.
"Stories shape our thinking in so many ways, and the arts are a powerful
medium to help students more deeply relate to and appreciate each
other."

Young Audiences' mission is to inspire young people and expand their
learning through the arts. YA envisions a future in which all young
people have the opportunity to engage in quality arts learning that
nurtures creativity, cultural awareness, and the development of critical
thinking and learning skills.

For more information about YA's United We Create Program visit
yanjep.org or contact TAHIRA at Young Audiences NJ & Eastern PA, at
866-500-9265 or TAHIRA@yanjep.org.

 
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