Summer Program for New Brunswick Youth Cultivates Artists, Cultural Citizens

Ulysses Flores was 12 when a family friend encouraged his parents to enroll him in a summer program where community-based artists, including students and alumni of Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, teach New Brunswick youth.
 
Young Uly went kicking and screaming.
 
“I just wanted to spend the summer hanging out with my friends,” Flores recalls. “I was really reluctant, but was hooked after the second photography class. And I begged to come back the next summer.”
 
Today, as a teaching artist for the program – Artists Mentoring Against Racism, Drugs and Violence,  known as AMARD&V – Flores, now 23, shares his passion for and knowledge of digital photography with participating youth each summer.
 
AMARD&V has provided creative and safe summer experiences for New Brunswick youth ages 10 to 16 free of charge since 1997. The program is organized by PRAB, Inc., Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Community Health Promotion Program, Rutgers’ Center for Latino Arts and Culture, and Suydam Street Reformed Church. Students are usually selected based upon recommendations from school guidance counselors and social workers.
 
Between 50 and 70 youth spend five weeks not only increasing their proficiency in the arts, but also their cultural understanding and critical thinking skills through team-building, workshops and discussions. The curriculum is designed to reduce bias and promote positive behaviors.
 
Flores now understands why his parents were adamant about his enrollment in the program years ago. “Kids get pulled into gangs and start experimenting with drugs. There’s an image circulating that you’re supposed to be in the streets, but there are other possibilities beyond what we’re surrounded by. The camp shows kids there are positive ways to benefit ourselves and our community.”
 

Posted August 2014. To read the rest of the article, please visit here.