One in three New York City children live below the poverty line, and many are frequently exposed to neglect, abuse, and violence. Afterschool programs help these children by offering them new dimensions and opportunities, shoring up their capacity to overcome early trauma and face future life challenges. Unfortunately, year after year, more programs are cut or scaled back due to lack of funding. Free Arts NYC is one organization attempting to fill the gap.
Free Arts NYC is a nonprofit organization that provides underserved New York City children and their families with a combination of educational arts and mentoring programs that help foster critical emotional skills. All programs are free for participants and are staffed almost entirely by volunteers.
Free Arts NYC focuses on two key programs to accomplish their mission:
The Weekly Mentor Program (WMP) pairs volunteer mentors with small groups of young people to discuss works of art and create their own art projects. Along the way, program participants learn how to interact with peers and adults in a healthy way, gaining confidence in themselves and their potential.
Parents and Children Together with Art (PACT) pairs families with teams of volunteers who facilitate art projects for parents to carry out together with their children, thereby promoting parental involvement in children’s education and development, and strengthening problem-solving skills for both child and parent by asking parents and children to really listen to one another as they work together creatively.
The impact of Free Arts NYC is measurable: participating students have shown tremendous growth in key areas of development, which will make them less likely to drop out of school, use drugs, or join gangs. Last year, 87 percent of PACT parents reported that the program promoted a sense of teamwork between themselves and their children. And nearly all Weekly Mentor students said that when they grow up, they believe they’ll be able to accomplish the things they set out to do. (You can listen to Free Arts NYC families describe their experiences in their own words here.)
Free Arts NYC is built on the participation of volunteer mentors. Every individual committed to volunteering makes an incalculable difference in the lives of these children. Readers can become Free Arts NYC volunteers by visiting www.freeartsnyc.org, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.