Exemplary Student Art and Writing Honored at U.S. Department of Education

Scholastic, Association of Art Museum Directors, Encourage Students’ Education Through the Arts

The braces aren’t immediately detectable, tucked inside the pant legs of their owner, 17-year-old Tim Farmer. They are a vital part of Tim’s life, however, and are the focus of his photograph and essay on display at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Tim travelled recently from Bentonville, Arkansas, to attend a joint celebration at ED of exceptional student art and writing. Some of it, like Tim’s, came to ED from 11 museum members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which views art education and the promotion of student art as central to its and its members’ mission; others won top honors in the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition. On hand for the art exhibit opening were student artists and writers from across the country, their families, arts educators and leaders, congressional staff, and ED staff.

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Student Chefs Are Cooking Up Change at ED

Recently, student chefs from six cities across the country were at the Department of Education to participate in the Cooking up Change National Finals. These talented students earned their way by winning local competitions in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Orange County and Troy, Alabama. They engaged in a cook-off that saw the team from Orange County win first place and the team from Houston win second.

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Student Artists From Rose Tree Media School District Celebrated at the U.S. Department of Education

A picture of a group of dozens of students sitting and standing on a stage in the U.S. Department of Education auditorium.

Students from the Rose Tree Media School District celebrate their success at the U.S. Department of Education.

About 250 student artists, teachers, parents, and school administrators from the Rose Tree Media School District in Pennsylvania, along with U.S. Department of Education (ED) staff, recently celebrated the students’ “Interpretations of Portraiture” exhibit at ED headquarters in Washington, D.C.  It featured 85 pieces of artwork from all six of the district’s K–12 schools, each of them a unique portrait.

The exhibit and opening took five years of collaborative development led by Art Coordinator Kathleen Devine, its previous coordinator Meg Barney, and others in the district. This true community effort had extraordinary results.

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Honoring MLK Jr.’s Drum Major Legacy: Innovative Pathways to Success

More than a dozen people stand on either side of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos displaying their award certificates.To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., earlier this month the U.S. Department of Education hosted the Honoring MLK Jr.’s Drum Major Legacy: Innovative Pathways to Success event. Honoring Dr. King at this time held even more significance because the following day was the 50th anniversary of his assassination, which shook the world on April 4, 1968. Although his fight for justice and peace was cut short, celebrating his legacy reminded us what it means to be persistent and righteous leaders for change, especially for the benefit of our youth in communities and schools across the nation.

Recognizing the Drum Major Spirit

ED’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans honored members of communities across the nation who have upheld Dr. King’s legacy through their extraordinary everyday acts of service, especially benefiting youth and education. These distinguished honorees received the 2018 MLK Jr. Drum Major Innovation Service Award.

As Dr. King once said, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness.” The award recipients demonstrated the drum major spirit in their own way, whether as a school administrator, faith leader, community leader, parent or other engaged leader.

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My Art Is a Reflection of My Story: National PTA Reflections Student Arts Showcase at ED

Acacia Wright reads her winning essay, “My Color in the Crayon Box.”Student artists whose works focused on the theme “What Is Your Story?” gathered at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on Jan. 16, 2018, to be celebrated for their awards in the 2018 National PTA Reflections® Student Arts Showcase program.

Since 1969, the program has annually recognized elementary through high school students from around the country for artistic ingenuity as expressed in film, dance, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. Each year competitors are asked to bring a different theme to life in a way that is personal and meaningful. This is the 11th year ED has partnered with the National PTA to host a ceremony and art exhibit to honor award-winners.

“People who read and see and witness your work performed will create meaning from it, understand the human story, and understand the context in which you created it,” Jacquelyn Zimmermann, director of the Student Art Exhibit Program at ED, noted at the gathering. It drew students from about 25 states, from Alaska to Florida, as well as their families and teachers, arts educators and advocates, and ED staff.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke about the importance of the arts in education by noting the national focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and articulating the importance of another view, which includes the arts. “I happen to think that art is pretty important too,” she said. “So I like those who really embrace STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education.” Following DeVos, Jim Accomando, the new president of the National PTA, expressed similar sentiments: “National PTA has long recognized the arts as an essential part of a great education.” As reflected by the top leaders of both organizations, access to and participation in the arts are at the core of an excellent education.

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Fighting Off the Wolves: ED and HHS Host Landmark Human Trafficking Prevention Event

The four panelists at the human trafficking event are seated on the podium as the audience looks on.Human trafficking, exploiting people through forced labor and commercial sex, is modern-day slavery.  ED’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students maintains that schools can and should be safe places where students can thrive.  Unfortunately, the trafficking of America’s students, both for labor and for commercial sex, is a dark presence in our nation’s schools, jeopardizing the health, safety, and the very lives of students.

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Very Special Student Artists Display Vision, Imagination in VSA Exhibit at U.S. Department of Education

Students whose artwork is displayed at the VSA exhibit use oversized scissors to cut the red ribbon at the exhibit.Seventeen-year-old Keevon Howard has mastered one cardinal rule laid down by his high school art teacher, one that resonates beyond the classroom. “Don’t erase,” his teacher counselled — accept the mistake and weave it into your composition. Coping is a vital life skill, she said, so whatever you put on the paper, that’s what you deal with.

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Student Artists and Writers Spark a Celebration of Creativity; 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Winners Exhibits Open at ED


On Sept. 15, 2017, for the 14th year, the U.S. Department of Education opened the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards exhibit of works by students from across the country, with a special exhibit this year of winners from Harris County (Houston), Texas. Presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and founded in 1923, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is the longest-running and most prestigious award program for teenagers in the U.S. This year, 330,000 pieces of art and writing were submitted, and only 2,700 students were selected as national winners. Of those national winners, the Department has the honor of exhibiting 66 for the entire year, along with an additional 30 artists from Harris County, Texas, through Oct. 31, 2017.

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Celebrating Student Artistry From Fairfax County Public Schools: “The World Through My Eyes”

On July 18, the Department hosted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to celebrate the opening of “The World Through My Eyes,” a collection of student achievement in the visual arts. Ninety FCPS students grades one through 12 at 28 schools contributed to the exhibit; the diversity of their chosen mediums—from photography to painting, illustration, printmaking, mixed media, and film—exemplifies the myriad perspectives and concerns of today’s youths.

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Student Chefs Cook up Nutrition and Great Taste at ED

Seven teams of student chefs from across the country converged on the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters recently to be judged on their efforts to create innovative and healthy menus for school lunches that would appeal to their fellow students.

The teams were national finalists in the Healthy Schools Campaign Cooking up Change competition. It recognizes and rewards students who develop tasty and nutritious meals that meet the same strict monetary and dietary standards that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets for real school lunches.

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ED in the Field ~ School Visit: Imagine Andrews

It is not every day that ED staff is granted the opportunity to enter into a classroom and observe elementary students engaging in lesson plans and sharing thought-provoking discussions with their classmates. For several ED staff, the opportunity presented itself through the ED in the Field ~ School Visit program.

ED in the Field ~ School Visit

The ED in the Field ~ School Visits have become a staple engagement effort adopted by staff throughout the Department of Education who wish to learn more about the impact of their work through practice and theory. The program is intended to increase interactions among department personnel, school educators, and administrators to better inform decisions made on policy as it relates to real-world impact.

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“What Is Education?” Elevated Thought Students Respond Via the Arts

For students from Lawrence, Massachusetts, the answer to “What is education?” comes best through the arts — painting, drawing, photography, narrative, poetry, music, and film – and through their own context as passionate learners in a historically immigrant, low-income community north of Boston.

Eight Lawrence students, along with their adult mentors from Elevated Thought and the Mayor’s Health Task Force, came to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in Washington, D.C. in mid-May for the opening of the students’ art exhibit, on view at ED through June. They also came to demonstrate what student voices can contribute to a community’s renewal and to learn from ED’s leaders about how best to exercise their Youth Bill of Rights.

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