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 Students Find Emotional Outlet, Gain Real-World Skills Through Arts Partnership

You are a fool if you think smoking is cool little eyes are always watching bus stop bench with JCCS student Kimberly, artist

When school facilities closed in March 2020, arts partner Outside the Lens had artists ready immediately to assist students in the San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) programs with continuing their arts education virtually and through pre-recorded sessions.

"The arts really spoke to the social and emotional needs of the students during this time," said Amanda Wallace, JCCS visual and performing arts technician. So much so that Wallace said she heard from teachers that students' interest in art remained high during virtual learning, even when interest in core subjects waned.

With its mission to empower youth to use digital media to create change within themselves, their community, and their world, Outside the Lens helps JCCS students learn real-world skills such as photography, digital media, and filmmaking. They collaborate with school staff to create projects that align and support subjects students are studying in class.

The organization started its partnership with JCCS more than five years ago at San Pasqual Academy (SPA). Currently they work with students in the North Region, as well as SPA and SOUL Academy. This year, they also worked with students in SDCOE's Migrant Education program and at Victoria Community School as part of a grant through SDCOE's Tobacco Use Prevention Education program.

After completing a course on anti-smoking and tobacco prevention for teens, Victoria students wanted to create advertisements for an anti-smoking campaign aimed at teens and teen moms. SDCOE connected the students with Outside the Lens to help them develop the design, and with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, which helped place the ads on bus stops across the county. Students collaborated on the messaging and images, voted on the final design, and selected student Kimberly Reyes to appear in the ads. 

The students said they enjoyed working in groups, being creative, listening to different points of view, and exploring and using cameras.

"We feel proud and empowered by the display of our work and every time Kimberly gets on or off the bus, people stare at her thinking she is famous or an activist," the students said.

Outside the Lens also was one of several arts partners that supported students in creating and showcasing their artwork via videoconferencing as part of JCCS's spring Design Jam. Students at Escondido Community School combined their studies on the human brain with graphic art to create public service announcements with important facts about the human brain and how it works. Students also participated in several self-reflection writing projects that included writing letters to the future or their future self, short narratives, or a pledge poem.