Young Audiences of Houston

Mission, History, and Overview of Programs and Services

Mission: The mission of Young Audiences of Houston (YAH) is to educate and inspire children through the arts, to make the arts an integral part of the school curriculum, and to advance the field of arts in education through professional development and community partnerships.

Brief History: YAH was founded by violinist Fredell Lack, and received non-profit status, in 1956, with support from Ima Hogg and Mrs. William P. Hobby. From the 1950’s to the 1990’s YAH focused on presenting interactive in-school performances by professional classical, jazz, folk, multi-cultural, dance, theater, opera, storytelling, and visual artists. Supporting the educational trends and legislation from the 1990’s to the present, YAH further expanded into presenting workshops (1-3 sessions), and residencies (3 or more sessions) which use the arts to support core curriculum skills and allow individual artists to work more effectively with small groups through “hands-on” projects, as well as professional development sessions which equip classroom teachers with the tools needed to integrate the arts into the classroom. During its 2009-2010 season and 54th year, YAH worked with a roster of 74 teaching artists to provide 3,232 presentations, reaching 241,000 children and teachers at 285 sites, including schools, libraries, community centers, and children’s hospitals within the Greater Houston area.

Needs Addressed: In school environments, studies have shown, and school leaders have recognized, that children exposed to the arts experience great present and future benefits, including: greater self esteem and confidence, better overall performance in all subjects, higher scores on standardized tests, and a greater understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures. However, because the arts are not included in the regular testing procedures that rank schools’ effectiveness, many schools leave little or no funding for arts programs, therefore limiting the potential of students. Through its accessible programs and services, as well as leadership role in education, promotion, and collaboration, YAH works with communities and schools to ensure every child has the opportunity to be exposed to the arts as part of a well rounded education.

Current Programs: YAH offers dynamic arts programming by a roster of nationally recognized artists tailored for pre-K through 12th grade students in both school and public venues. YAH programs include performances, workshops, and residencies in the fine arts, as well as teacher professional development training. These highly participatory programs are uniquely designed to reinforce core curriculum classroom instruction, provide positive role models, enhance students’ self-esteem, foster creative and critical thinking skills, awaken interest in learning, and broaden the understanding of the world’s arts and cultures. The National Arts Education Research Center at New York University has found that test scores in academic subjects improve when the arts are used to illuminate learning.  All of the current YAH programs are aligned to the mandated Texas State curricula and testing (TEKS and TAKS) and YAH is an approved Texas State Board for Continuing Professional Educator Certification provider. Consequently, our professional development workshops offer teachers gifted and talented credit.

YAH Assistance Fund: There is a reasonable and subsidized fee charged to schools and venues for YAH programs. However, stressed and fluctuating school budgets are limiting YAH activities in some of the most deserving and underserved Houston communities. Consequently, the greatest challenge YAH faces is the ability to adequately subsidize its programs for critically underprivileged, at-risk schools and community groups. To meet this need, YAH created the Assistance Fund in 2007. Gifts received for the YAH Assistance Fund are used for two purposes. First, to directly sponsor requested YAH programs in schools or communities most deserving of support, thereby opening the door to the arts for the first time to many students. Schools apply to the fund for assistance, and awards are made based on financial need after proper documentation is obtained and reviewed by a qualified YAH committee. YAH also shares the exciting in-school experiences made possible by this fund with its donors, through reports and updates, so that a compelling relationship is formed between the donor, YAH, and the supported schools. Secondly, gifts received for this fund are also used for the development, promotion, and implementation of programs specifically designed to serve the needs of underprivileged schools and communities who rely on the YAH Assistance Fund for programming.

Clients Served: The in-school student population served by YAH is culturally and economically diverse and in need of broader opportunities for cultural experiences and growth. The percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged is 70% and the student diversity represents the cultural makeup of the greater Houston area. YAH serves children from pre-K through the 12th grades with limited programming for college and adult continuing education programs. YAH programming is available in hundreds of sites located in schools, libraries, community centers, and hospitals within the boundaries of the 30 school districts in the greater Houston area, including the surrounding counties of Montgomery, Liberty, Waller, Walker, Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Galveston. The YAH Student Breakdown as of 2009-2010 is: African American 24.6%, Asian-Pacific Islander 3.2%, Hispanic 60.8%, Caucasian 10.3%, and Other 1.1%.

Outcomes: In the short term, YAH is focused on working to serve a greater diversity of venues, developing a wider variety of programs to better meet the needs of changing educational goals (including children with special needs and non-school venues such as libraries and hospitals), increasing the impact of programs judged by YAH’s evaluation procedure, and improving the accessibility of all its programs to schools and communities most deserving of support through the YAH Assistance Fund. Long term goals are to continue strengthening the value of the YAH/Artist, YAH/Client, and YAH/Supporter relationships, so that the greatest potential for the organization may continually be realized and the mission most effectively served.

Evaluation: In the short term, the success of YAH is expressed by a greater appreciation, support, and understanding of the value of the arts in education by teachers, students, and educational leaders. In the long term, the success will be expressed by data proving that arts in education has a significant positive impact on students’ lives, is tied to creativity and innovation, and is an important way to guarantee the realization of students’ full potential.

Evaluation and assessment of the effectiveness of YAH programs is critical, and therefore significant time is allocated to ensure quality evaluation in order to guide program development. YAH conducts evaluations and assesses the results by using confidential surveys, planning sessions with educators to gain feedback from classroom collaboration, and a study of the impact of the arts on students’ test scores balanced with control groups. YAH provides a rubric for its teaching artists that evaluate the knowledge and skills in residency design and implementation. With high demand for YAH educationally based arts residencies, evaluation is crucial to ensure compliance with Texas Assessment Standards of the Texas State Board of Education. This effort requires an additional time investment by YAH’s employees and committees, but leads to more effective and demonstrable results for the state and local educators and YAH artists.

Mary Mettenbrink, Education Director, administers the evaluation process with assistance from the Education Committee.  The group focuses on the following elements as a means of evaluation: 1. analysis of surveys completed by teachers and artists comprised of detailed topics relating to before, during, and after the training 2. implementation of planning sessions to specifically tailor programs to each teacher’s and school’s particular goals and needs 3. review of classroom evaluations during teaching artist visits to gain the children’s/audience’s perspective 4. review of evaluations from focus groups, which are made up of educators and artists to gain information about the impact of teaching methods in the classroom 5. assessment of the impact of arts training and programs through students’ test scores. YAH programs consistently receive the highest scores possible from committee members, teachers, and students. Any program deficiencies are addressed and remedied immediately.

Community Resources/Partners: Organizations YAH actively partners with and serves through its full service, targeted arts programming: Houston Independent School District, Houston Public Library, Houston Zoo, Miller Theatre, Texas Medical Center (Texas Children’s Hospital, Shriner’s Hospital for Children and the Methodist Hospital), YA of Southeast Texas, YMCA, YWCA, Artreach, museums, parks, PARC, Region 4, Arts Partners, charter schools, school districts throughout the greater Houston area, and private schools amongst others.

Accomplishments: Celebrating 54 consecutive years of providing fine arts services and support to the Houston community, YAH has been recognized as an exemplary chapter by the YA National chapter, and the YA National chapter is the first arts in education organization to receive the National Medal of Arts by the US Government.

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