Tampa | The Straz Center for the Performing Arts has announced its acquisition of a $20,000 grant from The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay to help bring the arts to the area’s disadvantaged students.

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay is a partnership between donors, nonprofits, community leaders, businesses, volunteers and businesses. During their fiscal year of 2017, they awarded $10.3 million in grants to qualifying organizations in Tampa Bay.

Their grant to the Straz Center will be utilized to support partnerships in the area’s underserved schools and communities. The performing art center advises that, due to the generosity of the organization, more than 3,500 disadvantaged Tampa Bay area K-12 students will benefit through their 2017-2018 Arts Education Partnerships Program.

“The goal of this program is to provide access to creative learning experiences for youth in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Manatee counties who face economic, geographic and other challenges to accessing the performing arts in their schools and neighborhoods,” the organization’s press release reads.

“In all, youth at 45 partnering Tampa Bay area schools and agencies will receive engaging arts education classes and programs during and/or after school,” it continues. “This is an increase of more than 28 percent over the 35 partnering schools and agencies served in 2016-2017.”

The increase is something that Straz Center president and CEO Judy Lisi says shows the Arts Education Partnerships Program’s value. First launched in 2009 as response to “a growing community need,” it has engaged nearly 40,000 disadvantaged students since its inception.

“The value of this program is reflected in the increasing number of schools and agencies that apply for partnership services each year,” Lisi says. “And in the faces of every child we reach.”

The 2017-2018 program will partner with the Metropolitan Ministries/Sullivan Elementary School, Academy Prep of Tampa Bay, MacDill Air Force Base’s Youth Programs, Pepin Academy, Firehouse Cultural Center, Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, RCMA Leadership Academy, Centre for Girls, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Healthy KIDZ program and 36 others.

“Throughout the school year, Straz Center teaching artists will deliver tailored sequential curricula and projects that help meet classroom objectives,” Straz’s press release says. “Students and teachers will also receive opportunities to attend study-related master classes and main stage performances at the Straz Center, and scholarship opportunities to pursue further training at our accredited Patel Conservatory.”

The Patel Conservatory was built in 2004 and opened without debt. It seeks “to advance in the pursuit of performing arts education excellence” and to “deepen the fulfillment of the mission for all students.”

Education in the arts, the Straz Center advises, remains in a marginalized state in a growing number of schools. “Local school districts and after-care agencies are increasing looking to the Straz Center to provide what they cannot,” they advise.

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