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Arts-Focused Nonprofit Raising Funds for College Prep Program

Arts Focused Non-Profit Raising Funds for College Prep Program
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — An arts-based nonprofit that helps low-income students tackle the college admissions process has raised more than its $15,000 goal through an online campaign — but is still seeking more funding for the program.

Statement Arts, which has operated in Washington Heights since 2012, launched an IndieGoGo campaign last week with the goal of raising the money for the summer session of its college prep program. But in just one week, the campaign raised $16,990.

The money will go toward classroom and rehearsal space, teachers’ stipends and college application fees, among other things, the organization said. The group is still hoping to raise additional funds to support the fall and winter sessions of the program, they said.

The nonprofit said it has a 100 percent college admissions success rate, with graduates going on to study at the Berklee College of Music, The Pratt Institute and Marymount Manhattan College.

“We use the arts as a way to empower them and help level the playing field for them,” said program co-founder Liza Politi. “It’s the way we know to build their confidence.”

Statement Arts was launched in 2003 to supplement arts programming at the High School for Environmental Studies in Hell’s Kitchen. After becoming a nonprofit independent of the Department of Education, Statement Arts held its first summer session Uptown in 2012, offering a class for 10 students at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center.

The organization now operates two free summer programs at The United Palace of Cultural Arts.

The Empower Youth Summer Arts Project offers students in the third through 11th grades introductory classes in singing, acting and dance, while the Expanding Horizons College Prep Program offers college preparation for more experienced performers.

Statement Arts recruits students from high-needs schools to audition for the college prep program. The 15 students who are chosen experience rigorous classes in audition techniques, private voice lessons and panels with professional performers. They also attend writing workshops focused on college applications essays.

The program’s summer session lasts for three weeks and culminates in a performance that is open to the public.

The students continue to receive support throughout the year in the form of weekly mentorship meetings, SAT prep classes, college application help, assistance with the financial aid process and guidance on securing outside scholarships.

They also attend field trips designed to expose them to art forms they may not have experienced before, such as Broadway shows or black-and-white films, Politi said. 

In previous years, Statement Arts has used IndieGoGo to raise smaller sums for the college prep program.

Politi said that the costs have increased because the nonprofit serves more students each year and because they add elements to the program as needed.

“Every year we identify a new hurdle for them and think, ‘Ah-ha, we need to add this in,’” she said. “Last year we added an ad hoc SAT prep program because the kids said they needed it. So this year we are offering that in a much more structured way.”

The fundraising campaign ends on July 10.