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Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

DAREarts Toronto: Rexdale Kids put their Best Selves Forward!

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Our Grade 7 & 8 delegates celebrate on stage as the audience cheers for them. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Our Grade 7 & 8 delegates celebrate on stage as the audience cheers for them. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

The children's artwork was displayed proudly for all to see. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

The children’s artwork was displayed proudly for all to see. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Bullying, peer pressure, youth violence and delinquency are just a few of the realities faced by our inner city children daily. Our kids severely lack leadership opportunities, and in turn they risk becoming targets of negative influences. How can we help close the opportunity gap and give our kids the chance to shine as leaders?

On Thursday, March 3rd, over 130 kids from 14 Etobicoke schools showcased their inner leader as they shared music, dance and drama presentations on stage at North Albion Collegiate Institute (NACI). They have found the confidence they need to define their own paths to success, and to combat the many challenges along the way. Special guests included MP Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science; Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti; and TDSB Systems Superintendent for School Effectiveness, Annie Appleby.

Left to Right: Kirsty Duncan, MP & Minister of Science; Deputy Mayor of Etobicoke North Vincent Crisanti; TDSB System Superintendent Annie Appleby. Photos by Alan Dunlop.

Left to Right: Kirsty Duncan, MP & Minister of Science; Deputy Mayor of Etobicoke North Vincent Crisanti; TDSB System Superintendent Annie Appleby. Photos by Alan Dunlop.

It’s been quite the journey for our youth as they delved into arts and cultural experiences, guided by artist-educators and our teaching team. These children face circumstances such as economic hardship, academic challenges, peer pressure or bullying. But at DAREarts, they are equals who see a wider world of opportunities.

Grade 5 delegates share their music piece, singing lyrics set to the Rejouissance from Handel's Fireworks. Photo by Catherine Guillaume.

Grade 5 delegates share their music piece, singing lyrics set to the Rejouissance from Handel’s Fireworks. Photo by Catherine Guillaume.

DAREarts uses the arts as a tool to empower kids with the courage and confidence to be their best. They are dared to opt out of destructive behaviour and expectations of failure. They are given a safe space where all of their new peers are in the same situation; labels cannot follow them from school and they are given the chance to redefine themselves in a positive environment.

The children are tasked with the job of going back to their schools after each DAREarts Day to peer teach their classmates, sharing knowledge and experience. Participating schools include Albion Heights JMS, Beaumonde Heights JMS, The Boys Leadership Academy, Broadacres JS, Claireville JS, Cookstown Central PS, Elmbank JMA, The Elms JMS, Greenholme JMS, Melody Village JS, Rivercrest JS, Smithfield MS, West Humber JMS, and Westmount JS.

All of the children boldly sang their finale, Rachel Patten's "Fight Song", together to show that they are ready to take on the world! Photo by Alan Dunlop.

All of the children boldly sang their finale, Rachel Patten’s “Fight Song”, together to show that they are ready to take on the world! Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Grade Fours welcome the audience into the opening sonnet of Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Catherine Guillaume.

Grade Fours dramatize the opening sonnet of Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Catherine Guillaume.

On stage, the kids absolutely shone. It was hard to believe that many of them were the shy, disinterested, or over-energetic kids from their first DAREarts Days in December! The transformation was obvious as each grade worked together as teams, supporting each other through complex performance pieces and celebrating each other’s successes and achievements. These are our young leaders – youth with empathy, dedication, and the confidence to be their best possible selves.

Grade Sevens bring their energy to the stage with Afro-Contemporary choreography. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Grade Sevens bring their energy to the stage with Afro-Contemporary choreography. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

The opportunity gap within our city is tremendous, but we are working hard to give access to kids where it is needed desperately. We are bringing hope to children who struggle socially, who struggle in school, who struggle with bad influences, and whose families are struggling to make ends meet, and struggling with the ever-rising cost of living. Their paths to success are long and filled with challenges, but with the arsenal of Discipline, Action, Responsibility, and Excellence, our kids are on the road to a brighter, healthier future where they can ignite change in their lives and communities.

DAREarts thanks its lead supporters: Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, Guy Carpenter, and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario. We would also like to send special thanks to the incredible staff of North Albion Collegiate Institute, our dedicated volunteers, and all involved schools for supporting student success!

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