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Bushnell Program Brings Urban and Suburban Students Together

They Get To Have Arts In The Classroom And Learn About One Another


March 29, 2011

Fifth-grader Melanie Mejias is inspired by her cat Sirius' survival instincts.

Sixth-grader Shanelle Sanchez dreams of visiting Australia and seventh-grader Georgia Paul is a fan of rapper Eminem and snowboarding and likes to draw.

The students, who attend Grace Academy in Hartford or the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, are learning much about one another through a three-part initiative offered by The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts called Diverse Cultures, Diverse Friendships.

"It's just been fun for them to get to know more girls," said Ethel Walker program coordinator Lee-Ann Harris. "It gives them an appreciation for their schools and it supports what we do in the classroom. We do a lot of collaborative work. They do have to get along with other people."

Since November the two private schools for girls have connected through community service cleanup projects and visits. But the Bushnell program has enabled the students to develop a deeper understanding of each other through such activities as drumming, singing, role-playing and a recent workshop that celebrated women's history. The third and final portion of the program will include a trip to the Bushnell for a performance of "Barrio Girl" followed by a chance to ask the cast questions.

"The key elements are to bring arts to the classroom and community," said Yolande Spears, the Bushnell's vice president of education and community relations, and "also to bridge the gap between urban and suburban youth."

During a visit to Grace Academy Wednesday, the students discussed the lives of educator Ethel Walker and African American opera singer Marian Anderson. On the surface the women seem so different, but they had many things in common, the students learned. Both lost their fathers at an early age, worked to support their families, had strong female role models and never gave up on their dreams.

"The two things I found about these ladies is that they both valued education and the arts a lot," Spears said.

As an ice-breaker, the students were asked to imagine where they would go if a limousine pulled up at their door.

"It took me to Hollywood I'm a TV actress who is on a cooking show," said Grace Academy fifth-grader Jyshavia Brown.

"It was my wedding day and I was on my way to the airport to my honeymoon in Barbados," said academy sixth-grader Jessica Hariprasad.

Erica Schulman said the limo would take her and fellow Walker student Cheyenne Watts to their movie premiere, a scenario that turned into a role-playing skit with students from both schools. The workshop ended with Bushnell presenting artist Shenel Johns, who performed a few Marian Anderson pieces and joined the students in a rendition of "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands."

Go to http://www.graceacademyhartford.org or http://www.ethelwalker.org for information on each school. Join the Simsbury Facebook community at http://www.facebook.com/simsbury

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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