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Grant to bring art therapy to D.C. public schools

Empowering males of color (ABC7)

WASHINGTON (ABC7) -- A fifth grade class at Bunker Hill Elementary in Northeast is using shapes to create art. Ten-year-old Leahno Dicks gets a lot out of his art class.

"I think art is fun because you get to make different things," he told ABC7 News.

Next school year art will be used in a different way; as a form of therapy for boys suffering from trauma, loss or other stressors.

Lisa Raye Garlock is an art therapy professor at George Washington University.

"It's a way of getting to the root of issues that maybe are hidden or are holding people back to come out somewhere and art is a perfect way to get out," Garlock said.

Kara Kuchemba, Principal of Bunker Hill Elementary, agreed that art can have a noticeable effect on children.

"When you give them a piece of paper or a little mound of clay, different emotions and expressions can come out," she said.

Bunker Hill and four other schools will share $35,000 in grant money to implement the art therapy program. The award is one of 16 Empowering Males of Color Innovation Grants provided by D.C. Public Schools. The grants represent nearly $1.7 million in financial support to improve the lives of males of color academically and socially.

The funding doesn't only cover art therapy programs, but violence prevention sessions, mentoring, international travel and technology education.

Graduate students from the George Washington University Art Therapy Program will lead the art sessions at Bunker Hill. Some of the young people attending the school who haven't suffered loss can attest to the healing powers of art. Fifth Grade student Omar Sylla said, "Sometimes when I'm sad and when it's time for specials and we be in art, I feel better."

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