Building careers, building community at EPIC Academy
“I have definitely seen an impact on career aspirations. Students come up to me regularly in awe of a particular trip they went on or a project they are working on and tell me how they’d like to look into the ARTS as a career. I can tell that they believe the sky is the limit when it comes to college and career options.”
Urban Gateways’ new partnership with EPIC Academy, a CPS charter high school in its third year serving South Chicago, has been an incredible experience for both organizations and a source of inspiration for EPIC students. As EPIC’s lead after-school partner, UG offers after-school arts programming to students through a number of teaching artist residencies. Teaching artists Matt Woods, Avery Young, Nicole Beck, Maia Morgan, and Michael Riendeau lead after-school sessions that ignite arts learning and encourage EPIC Academy’s Habits of Mind (core principles): perseverance, responsibility, progress, collaboration and courage. As EPIC’s Community Resource Coordinator, Kelly Christiel is the one organizing all artist residencies and making sure that programs run smoothly. And as an Urban Gateways staff member who also works on the ground in a particular school, we thought she’d be a perfect voice for this blog as we explore how our programs impact students across Chicago.
Q: Can you talk a bit about your role at EPIC/UG (what do you do as the Resource Coordinator)?
A: As the Community Resource Coordinator at EPIC High School, it is my responsibility to coordinate quality programming and events that unite EPIC’s students, staff, parents and the EPIC community using art as a platform.
Q: Can you describe the after-school programming at EPIC and how this Urban Gateways program came to fruition?
A: The After-School Program came to fruition because there was simply a need. EPIC students wanted something to do after school and believed that it would curtail some of the [negative activity] that goes on in and out of EPIC. The students asked for something more! Currently, Urban Gateways serves as EPIC’s main after school program, offering Young Men/Women’s Club, Hip-Hop and Performance Dance, Theater, Spoken Word, Music, Digital Media and Visual Arts.
Q: How do you collaborate with UG teaching artists?
A: As the Community Resource Coordinator, I collaborate regularly with the teaching artists, assisting them in building their individual programs. We frequently spend time bouncing ideas off of one another, thinking of different ways to make after-school programming impactful and exciting!
Q: What do you observe about the students’ responses to these residencies, and their responses to arts opportunities in general?
A: Our after-school program has some very dedicated students. I know that the students enjoy the exposure that comes along with learning more about the arts. Whether it is exposure to new ideas, new places or even the exposure of their natural talents, the students really seem to be grateful!
…Along with the exposure that UG’s programming provides, comes ideas. I have definitely seen an impact on career aspirations. Students come up to me regularly in awe of a particular trip they went on or a project they are working on and tell me how they’d like to look into the ARTS as a career. I can tell that they believe the sky is the limit when it comes to college and career options.
Q: Why is this programming an important part of EPIC’s educational offerings?
A: The Urban Gateways programming is important because it is offers the students an outlet where they can be creative and inspired! This inspiration leads students towards making gains in test scores, study habits and healthy decisions.
Q: What are the challenges of your position? The joys?
A: I love my job, I love being able to support Urban Gateways artists, I love being able to work in a frontline, leadership role where I am able to make decisions and coordinate programming and also work hands on with EPIC students! The challenges pale in comparison to the joys.