Students reach out with arts education

Artists Striving to End Poverty will visit public schools once a week.

Cindy Paul said she wants to bring the arts to a community that wouldn’t normally have access to them—public school students in Philadelphia.

According to a September 2015 report from The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, 174 of 218 total Philadelphia public schools have a visual art teacher and 25 have an instrumental music teacher on site.

To help combat what The Notebook calls Philadelphia public schools “starving for arts education,” Paul founded the Temple chapter of Artists Striving to End Poverty this semester.

ASTEP is an international nonprofit that uses performance and visual art to inspire underserved youth around the world. It’s the brainchild of Broadway Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell and students from The Juilliard School. Temple’s chapter will specifically serve Philadelphia public school students.

“Creative movement is something that is definitely very helpful in terms of creating that safe environment for kids to express themselves,” said Paul, the club’s president and a sophomore dance major.

The club’s vice president Julia Haines, a sophomore fibers and material studies major, said she understands the club won’t provide a long-term solution for the problems within Philadelphia public schools, but she hopes it will still impact children positively.

“By simply providing the opportunity for these students, it’s not like we’re going around with a huge flag trying to end the cycle of poverty, but it’s definitely a start,” Haines said. “I think as modest as our achievements may seem, I think they’re big achievements in the kids’ lives.”

Temple’s ASTEP chapter plans to teach at Bayard Taylor Elementary in Franklinville and All-Star Movements School of Dance in Frankford.

The group will visit the schools once a week, and they will create lesson plans to teach various art forms. Temple’s ASTEP chapter strives to create an interdisciplinary platform for the students to “nourish” their creativity.

“So many schools have closed down and a lot of schools have lost arts funding,” said Heather Birmingham, a freshman musical theater major who attended the club’s first meeting on Jan. 28. “I got an email about this club that was starting, and I thought it was the perfect way to combine arts and community service. I think it’s important as an artist to give back to the community.”

Paul said the election of City Councilwoman Helen Gym and Mayor Jim Kenney have made her optimistic about the future of Philadelphia public schools.

“I think that while people are taking care of the more political side of things, there should be people coming into the schools to take care of the more educational direct teaching aspects,” Paul said.

Paul said her vision is “quality over quantity.”

“I think this club is very unique because it offers a lot of opportunities for individualized learning,” Haines said. “You really get to create something, and make a difference. Personally, I haven’t seen a club like that.”

Keeland Bowers can be reached at

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