Cleveland students get taste of art school, prep for SATs through after-school program
Earlier this year in a classroom at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Ajatara Aniton-Carney, a Cleveland School of the Arts senior, rolled paint on a stamp design she carved of a cat bearing a moon symbol - a reference to one of her favorite Japanese animation shows, "Sailor Moon."
She says shows like that inspire her art, and her career path, with plans on attending the University of Cincinnati and majoring in mechanical engineering and Japanese literature and culture. Her ultimate goal? To work on bullet trains in Japan. And the class she was taking could help get her to that goal.
Aniton-Carney attended the 8-week Impact! after school program offered by College Now Greater Cleveland - a nonprofit focused on college readiness. The Institute of Art is among the newest of 14 such Impact! sites and the first one in the county focused on arts.
Baelee Wehlburg, senior site coordinator for College Now, said the program is helping students like Aniton-Carney develop new art for their portfolios, which are important tools for prospective first-year art students. Meanwhile, they’re also preparing them for college with SAT prep; the four Impact! students at the Institute of Art had all taken the SAT the day before Ideastream Public Media visited in February.
"We do math and reading lessons and then we also will cover career and just general college information to help them plan for what they want to do after they graduate," she said.
John Hay High School sophomore Sara Gutierrez chose to create designs of animal skulls with her stamp-printing exercise, including bulls and cats (although she noted the cat skulls weren't accurate because they had their ears still). While Gutierrez has her mind set on pursuing a pre-med path in college, she thinks her penchant for anatomical art will help her on that path.
"I think I'm going to get that as a side hustle during college because it gets me into my passion, like maybe I can draw or do something related to anatomy, and at the same time I’ll get paid while I’m in college," she said.
She says she was worried about taking the SAT this year. The Impact! program helped ease those concerns.
“I actually moved here a year ago. I'm from Colombia, so we were like, 'Okay, there's this big test that determines if you have to go to college or not,'" she said, noting she has anxiety about tests.
Alison Bibb-Carson, a spokesperson for College Now Greater Cleveland, said participants in its Impact! after-school program "overwhelmingly report" an increase in motivation to attend college and improve study habits. On average, students who participate in one session reportedly increase their ACT scores by two points and their SAT scores by 80 points.
She said students also complete a "college and career project" during each session, designed to help them map out their post-high school plans. Students also do additional enrichment activities, like the Cleveland Institute of Art class going to the Cleveland Museum of Art to do a "scavenger hunt."
Bibb-Carson said the overall Impact! program costs $100,000 to $200,000 per year, and is grant-funded.
The Cleveland Institute of Art’s vice president of enrollment and marketing, Yvette Sobky Shaffer, says the Impact! site at the art institute is one way for the school to recruit more CMSD students, and with that, a more diverse student body. Last fall, only about 3% of the Institute of Art’s students (20 of 584 students total) came from CMSD schools.
"The students we want to see most on campus are the students who are in our backyard," according to Sobky Shaffer. "So to be able to get them on campus and have them imagine themselves here and tell their friends about the experience is just another bridge."
But the institute has its work cut out for it. Only 9.5% of the its students are Black in a majority-Black city.
Still, Ajutara Aniton-Carney, who is Black, says the program helped her see herself in a college setting; she noted her mom never finished college. She said she was lost when she first got there, but a friendly security guard helped out.
"He showed me around to where I was supposed to be, it was supposed to be in a theater and I was like, this place has a theater?" she said
Fellow program participant Brianna Malcolm, a Cleveland School of the Arts junior, also said the program helped her build up her portfolio more in preparation for college, although in her own particular style. She made a print of the villain Oogie Boogie from the Tim Burton movie "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
"I'm known as a Halloween girl, so, my shoes are 'Nightmare Before Christmas,'" she said. "...so any time Halloween stuff comes out, I'm always buying it, and I just wear it throughout the year."
Malcolm hopes to bring some of that flair for spookiness to her future career, although she's not sure what form that'll take. She’s thinking about architecture, or maybe set or prop design in theater.
Moth Teets, an 11th grade student at the Cleveland School of the Arts who uses they/them pronouns, said the SAT test went much better than the practice version, after attending the Impact! program. While their interest is in theater, they said the visual art they created during the Impact! session helped broaden their artistic horizons.
There were only four students in the spring Impact! Cleveland Institute of Art session, but spokesperson Bibb-Carson said sites often aim for 15 students per session.
Enrollment is open now for a summer session at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Students also receive a $200 stipend for attending a full Impact! session and potentially get to go on a field trip to another city if they complete all program requirements.