Holiday Party for Disadvantaged Kids

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Create Now held our Power of the Arts Party on Saturday, December 3rd.

There were around 25 disadvantaged children ages 4-12 from the Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts, Over 2,000 units are in this poverty-stricken, gang-infested public housing project - the largest one West of the Mississippi River.

Some kids also came from Human Services Agency in the San Fernando Valley.

Aaron Weiner taught drumming. Zach Sonnentag taught singing, guitar and keyboards. Brandon Johnson showed the kids how to make styrofoam snowmen, and jewelry designer Victoria taught jewelry making.

The kids had a blast! Through your support, each child received a toy. For children who may not get anything for Christmas, this was a very special treat.

Kimberly McKinney is a Deputy Probation Officer with LA County. Her job is to prevent children from joining gangs, while supervising those youth who are in gangs and committing crimes. Kim said, "We truly appreciate what Create Now does for our kids. There aren't any other organizations like them."  

11-year-old Anielle Morales said, "I really liked making bracelets and singing. My favorite part was playing the drums." 

Thanks to your support, Create Now was able to bring joy to the poorest children in the community during this holiday season.

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Musically Speaking

Create Now targets our arts programs on abused, neglected, abandoned, orphaned and homeless kids in the region. However, our school-based classes also reach the most disadvantaged children at Title 1 schools who receive free lunches, but no arts education. Our workshops help to prevent dropouts, poverty and violence.

The growth of literacy and math skills are the foundation for children to do well at school, socialize with others, become independent, manage money and work. But in 2015-2016, 52% of California's students failed to meet the standards in English, and 71% didn't reach the math standards.

Researchers have found that both musical ability and literacy correlate with enhanced electrical signals within the auditory brain stem, and that an awareness of beats can influence the way children assimilate speech patterns, which can affect their reading and writing abilities.

Create Now has initiated our fourth year of collaboration with Youth Policy Institute by providing our programs in East Hollywood and Pacoima through the LA Promise Neighborhood initiative, which is sponsored by the Department of Education.

Last Fall, Master Teaching Artist Beth Sussman taught 135third grade students at Ramona Elementary School in East Hollywood Musically Speaking, which is based on the steady beat. Teachers reported that 100% of Beth's students showed great improvement in cooperation and working in teams. They also improved 100% in feeling more confident to raise their hands and share in class. This is in addition to tremendous acceleration of their reading fluency and knowledge of music terminology and notation. 

Beth's current Musically Speaking workshops are teaching 125 new children how to keep a steady beat through dance, singing and fun games that focus on history, logic, reasoning, critical thinking, language arts and math - all through the lens of music. She remarked, "On the first day, it was pretty exciting that many of the new third graders had already learned the warm-up song from last year's third graders. I'm often greeted by kids with 'Che Che Kule' - a chant from Ghana." 

She's been so successful that Beth is also teaching two classes of SDC (Special Day Class) children. Their teachers are amazed at the impact that Beth's classes have on the students, especially those with very challenging behavior and learning disabilities.

Beth remarked, "I focus on steady beat (for reading fluency and comprehension), patterns and rhythm (for fractions and division), and learning and applying musical terms to connect to reading and speaking with expression. One of the SDC children, Jordy, came over to me and said 'The music has a psychic power over me.' Another SDC boy, David, loves to dance and wants to become a Zumba teacher."

Watch this short video to experience first-hand the powerful affect of Beth's program.

Incarcerated Youth Show Off Their Skills

Dorothy Kirby Center is a probation camp in Commerce with 60 teenagers who are locked up for serious crimes. All of them are dealing with mental health challenges, like depression and anger management.

Create Now brought our board member Mark Schulman (drummer for P!nk and Cher) and Latino Reggae band Pachamama Estela to perform for the youth. Then 12 of the kids got to show off their talents for all of their peers and staff. They displayed amazing skills in song, dance and poetry at our Talent Show.

Probation Supervisor Tommy Baines said, "It's important for these kids to discover their talents and to learn new ways to cope appropriately."

Deputy Probation Officer Janet Ramos remarked, "This program took them away from misbehaving and their triggers. It opened their minds up a lot. Now they want to perform in other places."

Mark Schulman explained, "These kids come from bad circumstances. They're here because they've made mistakes. They have been abused and forgotten. Yet some of these kids were really brilliant. They radiated. This program has now shifted their consciousness."

Participants received books and our unique Certificates of Completion as gifts to remind them of their successes.

Mural Workshop Helps Stop Gangs

Los Angeles is called the "Gang Capital of America." There are120,000 gang members, plus tens of thousands more in the surrounding areas around L.A. County. Gang membership has increased over the last five years. There were 16,398 violent gang crimes in the City of LA, like homicides, felony assaults, robberies and rapes. 

New Directions for Youth in North Hollywood provides intervention support for gang members who are on the fence about dropping out of their gangs, plus prevention for younger children, and re-entry programs for probation youth.

Between April and June, they hired Create Now through the Mayor's GRYD (Gang Reduction and Youth Development) initiative to implement our Create a Mural Now workshop for a number of these kids. 

The classes were taught by Master Teaching Artist Manny Velasquez and Jenny Roman-Rossington. Around 25 kids got to create designs that reflected their dreams and goals. Yadira, age 15, said, "I was like a bad girl before, but then I joined the program and it made me realize that I want to become a doctor." 

Our colorful mural fills four large walls depicting many things the kids love to do, plus their hopes for the future. Program Manager Adrian Cuentas said, "To be able to have these pictures on the walls that tell stories is very meaningful."  

Manny remarked, "For the youth participating in this mural project, it gives them work experience. They can say 'I was involved in this public art project,' which they can add to their resumés." 

As always, Create Now culminated our program with a party and gift bags for all the kids, which included backpacks, sunglasses, Certificates of Completion and other lasting souvenirs. These mementos bring pride and confidence to the youth and serve to remind them of their accomplishments as they share their experiences with families and friends.  

Check out this short video about our Create a Mural Now workshop: