New Arts Integration Pilot Program

PGCPS Young Audiences Partnership

By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES, Originally published on

In an effort to expand teaching opportunities and transform the lives of all students through the arts, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning of Maryland and Prince George’s County Public Schools celebrated the launch of a new arts integration partnership on Nov. 17 during a kick-off performance at Oxon Hill Middle School in Fort Washington.

“The arts represent the ability to teach children, help children be imaginative, innovative [and] creative and I think we need that,” PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell said. “[It’s about] engaging the whole child and having kids able to do more than just left brain functions of memorizing and computing, [which is really important in bringing out their] creative and innovative sides.”

John Ceschini, an arts integration officer for PGCPS, said the arts integration pilot program is currently offered at 41 schools in the county. Oxon Hill Middle was chosen because it reinforces education in a different way by integrating arts with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

“Oxon Hill [Middle] is STEAM school, which is STEM across the arts,” he said. “They do a lot with the integration of science, technology, engineering and math with the arts.”

For Ceschini, he supports the research related to student participation and academic achievement.

“There’s a lot of research that says that the arts impact learning, improves student retention and also increases student engagement,” he said. “So why wouldn’t we bring something like that [which] can contribute to student achievement.”

As the nation’s largest arts-in-education network commemorating 65 years of service, Young Audiences of Maryland ensures all students are given the best circumstances for learning by working in partnership with schools and school districts to provide arts integration professional development for educators, according to the YA website.

“We envisioned a day in Prince George’s County where every student has the opportunity to imagine, to create and to realize their full potential through the arts,” said YA Executive Director Stacie Evans. “We believe that artists can be catalysts in our schools. Through their art form, they can develop new approaches to teaching the curriculum. They inspire children and they help reach some of our struggling learners. It’s because the arts and the self-expression and the creativity required of the arts brings meaning to learning.”

YA’s Chief Innovation Officer and Education Director Pat Cruz said she is impressed with the work that PGCPS had done to restore arts education in the classroom.

“It is an honor to serve such dedicated and hard working educators who, despite all the challenges they have, are truly going above and beyond to provide their students with the best learning experience as possible,” she said. “We’ve tried to support that work in four ways in Prince George’s County. First, it’s … by providing quality cultural arts programs that are connected to the curriculum and provide grant writing assistance to bring them into the schools. … Second, we’re working with John Ceschini’s office to provide professional development and expertise to the new arts integration schools. … Third, in partnership with New York City’s American Place Theatre, we’re proud to present the Literature to Life theatre experience … to discuss issues of society such as racism and inequality.”

As a result of YA’s efforts, Evans said more PGCPS students have benefited from the arts integration program.

“Young Audience’s mission is to transform the lives and education of youth through the arts,” she said. “We’re very committed to reaching out to children across the state and in fact, we’ve reached children in every single county and impacted the education of 182,000 students.”

Evans also said YA will expand its outreach thanks to Maxwell’s dedication to the arts.

“This year, we’re going to increase our reach by nearly 5,000 students [compared to] the year before,” Evans said. “It’s really because Dr. Maxwell is committed to the arts and he’s creating opportunities for us to try and integrate the arts across the curriculum.”

For Oxon Hill Middle School Principal Wendell Coleman, the arts integration program promotes the school’s motto of PEACE — positive energy activates constant elevation.

“The partnership with Young Audiences has been a critical opportunity for our kings and queens,” Coleman said. “Arts integration is a big part of our school … [and exposes them] to the beauty of the arts and what it can mean for them for a lifetime. … It’s so fulfilling to come to work every single day with [a] great dedicated group of educators. Nothing happens without solid teaching, nothing. We value our teachers as much as possible.”

Originally published on