On the evening of June 2nd, nearly 150 students from 22 Toronto (TDSB) schools stood on stage at Harbord Collegiate Institute and took a triumphant final bow. Their beaming faces and the cheers from the audience communicated a clear message: the evening was a celebration of leadership, teamwork, courage and strength after two months of weekly DAREarts Days that exposed the children to all the arts, daring them to work hard and achieve excellence in new experiences.
Outside of DAREarts, our student delegates face bullying, peer pressure, academic challenges, anxiety and for some, the stress of constantly moving schools and homes. Lacking a sense of community, these kids risk not living up to their full potential.
DAREarts gives students a sense of belonging; they become part of the DAREarts family. When they are part of something bigger than themselves they gain hope and the motivation to become the best version of themselves.
A powerful example was during the Grade 8 performance. On their Music Day led by Juno-nominated artist Glenn Marais, they wrote a song of hope and solidarity for the youth of Attawapiskat First Nation who are suffering through a suicide crisis. As leaders, our DAREarts delegates understood that their voices, thoughts and artistic output could connect with youth thousands of kilometers away. As they sung out the words, “When you feel a little lost or scared, just know you’re not alone, we may be miles away, but our hearts aren’t made of stone.” A powerful sense of empathy, responsibility and respect radiated through the auditorium.
This newfound sense of confidence and independence is built through workshops with professional artists, visits to inspiring cultural institutions and a focus on building inner Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence. And, as Charlotte in Grade 6 proclaimed onstage, “DAREarts teaches you about history without making it boring!” Our students take this newfound knowledge of arts, history and culture and return to their home classrooms to “teach” their peers, sharing knowledge and experience.
As the delegates performed their music, dance and drama pieces in unison onstage, it was hard to believe that they had met one another only 8 weeks prior. On the first day many of the children were shy, withdrawn, anxious or overcome with nervous energy, but that melted away as they were assured of their excellence and worked together towards common artistic and personal goals.
At the end of the evening we congratulated our newest class of graduates and presented three special awards: the Judith Teller Award to Liam C., the William Stevenson Award for Excellence in Writing to Dawson D., and the Crichton Community Scholarship to DAREarts alumni Mariba Douglas. Special thanks were given to Jazz FM91, who accompanied the grade 7s on stage as they sang B.B. King’s version of “Every Day I Have the Blues”, Pizza Nova for donating dinner for the delegates, Mondelez International for donating cookies for the reception, and to the nearly two-dozen DAREarts grads who volunteered behind the scenes to make the show a success!
Participating schools included Brock PS, Cedarbrook PS, Chine Drive PS, Cosburn MS, Equinox Holistic Alternative, Fairbank Memorial CS, George Webster PS, Jesse Ketchum Sr. PS, Joseph Brant PS, Niagara Street JPS, Ogden JPS, Pauline JPS, RH McGregor PS, Regent Heights PS, Roden PS, Ryerson CS, Samuel Hearne Sr. PS, Tecumseh PS, Westwood MS, Willow Park JPS and Winchester PS.
DAREarts thanks its lead supporters: Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD, 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 Harbord Collegiate Institute, our dedicated volunteers, and all involved schools for supporting student success!