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CalArts wins human relations award

L.A. County honors ‘Food For Thought’ program

Posted: October 29, 2008 8:43 p.m.
Updated: December 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The CalArts Community Arts Partnership "Food For Thought" program received a John Anson Ford Human Relations Award on Oct. 23.

The CalArts Community Arts Partnership "Food For Thought" program received a John Anson Ford Human Relations Award from the County of Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations.

The innovative program takes English language learners at Hart High School and teaches them to write creatively about their lives and their dreams.

"They're enrolled in English learner classes, so they are doing a lot of reading and writing in English, but it's a shift for them to focus on creative writing," said Glenna Avila, California Institute of the Arts CAP director. "It really helps build human relations, which is what this award is about."

The entire CAP staff including Mady Schutzman, the CalArts faculty member who created the program, along with Hart High School Principal Collyn Nielsen, Assistant Principal Maria Lacy and two Hart students who participated in the "Food For Thought" program attended the awards ceremony Oct. 23.

"We had a whole contingent there to accept the award," Avila said. "We were tremendously excited - it's a huge honor."

CalArts graduate students work with Hart High's English language learner classes throughout the year, teaching the students - many of whom are recent immigrants - to express themselves creatively through the written word. At the end of the year, the students' best works are published in a book titled "Food For Thought."

"The program was so successful last year that we are continuing it at Hart again this year," Avila said. "Having their works published in a book encourages the students and gives them confidence."

The Los Angeles County Commission of Human Relations works to address growing intergroup tensions and conflict in schools and communities, and supports those who are committed to promoting harmonious multiracial and multicultural relations.

"The ‘Food For Thought' program gave voice to students who are all too often marginalized and are the targets of prejudice and jokes," said Robin Toma, executive director of the Commission. "By helping the immigrant students tell their stories, the CAP program empowered a vulnerable minority and gave the majority non-immigrant students a chance to relate to the humanity and struggle of the newcomers."


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