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Panel Urges Efforts To Ensure Vitality Of Youth Arts Programs

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At a time when federal agencies that underwrite arts and humanities programs face severe budget reductions, a presidential panel has released a report that celebrates those very programs that serve at-risk youths.

The report by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities describes the characteristics of successful programs, recommends ways to ensure their continuation, and profiles 218 such programs nationwide.

"The most effective programs maintain a delicate balance between structure and flexibility, creating opportunities for growth and building on the familiar," the report says.

"Successful programs focus on specific arts and humanities disciplines without ignoring broader child-development contexts," it says.

"These programs work with parents while preserving independent relationships with children," it continues. "Finally, they capitalize on the unique perspectives possessed by artists and humanists."

"Coming Up Taller: Arts and Humanities Programs for Children and Youth At-Risk" was to be released late last week at the White House.

Deterring Danger

The report's authors strive to make the case that arts and humanities programs, along with activities such as sports, play an essential role in helping at-risk children flourish rather than flounder.

Using data from a number of national studies, the commission's report says millions of children are vulnerable to poverty, drugs, weapons, school failure, and other hazards. For example, the commission notes one study that estimates the number of children growing up in "severely distressed" neighborhoods at 4 million.

The 218 organizations profiled in the report reach about 88,600 youths annually, the majority of whom live in large cities.

"There appear to be more cultural programs now than at any other time in our history," the report says. "However, many more programs are needed to reach underserved children and youth."

Success Stories

The report also cites specific programs and their successes.

For example, when the stars program--Success Through Academic and Recreational Support--in Fort Myers, Fla., began, the majority of students participating in the program averaged grades of less than C. Now 80 percent have averages of C or higher.

Moreover, juvenile arrests there have decreased 28 percent since the program began in 1989.

But, the commission says, the budgets for these organizations tend to be relatively meager, and those who run them generally have to piece together their funding each year from a variety of sources.

The panel found that the majority of donors are local but that many also have received support from the federal government: 43 percent have received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, or the Institute of Museum Services.

The endowments, and especially the NEA, have been targeted by congressional budget-cutters.

For More Information:

Copies of the report are available free from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Suite 526, Washington, D.C. 20506 (202) 682-5409; fax (202) 682-5668.

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