Arts & Humanities Council of East Texas -                           "Together We Can Do the Extraordinary"
                        “After School is Cool”
                                                    Arts Program     
The mission behind the “After School is Cool” arts program is to promote cultural and creative expression, critical thinking, and interpersonal functioning to at-risk or underprivileged youth in the local area.   Our goal is to work with various entities to provide after school/out of school and summer art experiences for youth up to 18 years of age.  
The Arts and Humanities Council of East Texas will supply volunteer instructors and supplies and the classes will take place at the resource centers we partner with.  Our dedicated volunteers will provide these children with encouragement to help build self-esteem as well as a wealth of exciting diverse art projects to keep them occupied.  Participating in the “After School is Cool” arts program allows the children to partake in productive after school activities and gives them opportunities that they may not otherwise have.  
Children can explore and experiment with creativity through lots of different mediums and modalities; visual art, movement, drama, music-making, singing and play. Creativity is important in developing well-being in children and using the imagination encourages children to a build a positive sense of self. Every term of “After School is Cool” culminates in an end of term exhibition of works, and the year is rounded off with the Annual Exposé open to not only the “After School is Cool” program participants, but also the wider community.
The idea behind this program is to expose youth to an artistic process that can serve both as an outlet for feelings (positive and negative) and as a means for self-expression.  The environment is free of criticism or comment, allowing participants to use the materials and resources to develop their artistic expression and insights. Through the creative process, participants can discover their own knowledge and self-understanding (Allen,1995; Malchiodi,1998).
All youth are potentially vulnerable and at-risk.  Young people face a range of challenges to their personal safety and growth towards becoming well-adjusted human beings, who are confident and able to contribute constructively in society. This program is versatile enough to cater for many types of social factors, personalities and cultures. 
As the program develops and grows, participants who want to continue to be involved in the studio can be involved in a leadership program working towards playing a supportive role in new groups. Each program culminates in an exhibition for community, family and friends as agreed to by the participants.  This exhibition will not only provide confidence through appreciation from families and community but also advocate effectively for the youth, educating the general public by displaying the youth’s experiences in their own voices in a direct and powerful way. Participants will receive positive attention for being an ‘artist’.
The program will provide a celebration of cultural and artistic accomplishments and therefore an opportunity for growth and change. Such exhibitions can empower the community to see these youth as an asset and to feel connected to the After School is Cool” arts program, the youth and the arts in general.  All of which is in accord with our aims of: community, creativity, connection: through the arts.     
We must work to give value to their knowledge and to teach them the importance of their culture so they will want to preserve and share it.
                                                                                                                                   ~~Amanda Fortier