Chicago kids join Michelle Obama in art expansion event

First Lady Michelle Obama plans to introduce youth to the arts through the expansion of the Turnaround Arts initiative. Not only does it introduce students to the arts, the program also solicits respected artists as mentors.

Grammy-winning Keb ‘Mo’ helped share the news and performed “Sweet Home, Chicago” at the White House to a student audience full of participants of the program, some of which are from Chicago. Guest of honor Mrs. Obama was there for the second event of its kind.

Officials said that next fall, Turnaround Arts plans to involve more than 40,000 students in 15 states and the District of Columbia from a total of 68 schools.

The First Lady’s top aide, Tina Tchen, said that great changes occur when the arts return to lower performing schools — ones that are plagued by below average test scores, disciplinary issues, poor teacher retention and low parental involvement.

Tchen says we aren’t allowing students to reach their potential when we don’t have arts education. She refers to creator and leading actor of the well-known musical “Hamilton” as she remarks that without arts education, we could never discover the next Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Turnaround Arts has attracted mentors including singer Paula Abdul, ballerina Misty Copeland, and actor Elizabeth Banks.

It’s shocking that 6 million elementary and middle school students in America do not have music or art classes, especially when you look at the facts: students engaged in the arts typically have better attendance records and higher GPA.

Michelle Obama is an avid supporter of the arts though it isn’t clear yet if she will remain integral in Turnaround Arts once she leaves the White House.

The arts don’t always receive the attention they deserve, but the First Lady is one to continually tout its importance. Exposure to arts education can have a big impact on student development in the short and long term and even though most educators agree, there isn’t always enough time in the academically-rigorous day to make it happen. High profile supporters like First Lady Obama pave the way for better funding behind arts initiatives so more students can benefit.

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