Children in St. Charles Parish were given a free, artistic outlet this month when a series of art classes were held at the Boutte Community Outreach Center.
Organized by Marilyn Diggs, a retired school secretary, and Nena Matherne, a retired teacher, the classes were an offshoot of their after-school tutoring program that is housed at the center.
“The reason I think art is so important is because it is a unique, universal teaching method,” Matherne said. “It allows you to present difficult concepts in a manner that is easy to understand. Art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, social skills. communication and language skills, decision -making, risk taking and inventiveness.”
Matherne said art has been proven to close the achievement gap for students of low socioeconomic status and significantly decrease the dropout rate and increase college attendance and improve grades on academic performance.
“I would definitely like to see this included in all of the St. Charles Community Centers,” she said. “This program was started at the Boutte Outreach Center as an enrichment for the students with the aid of a volunteer retired teacher, Yolande Stroobants. Due to the success of the students and their reactions, the Saturday workshops were created with the help of the St.
Charles Parish United Way.”
“During the summer, it’s important that kids have enriching activities to participate in,” he said. “We were excited that the camp was still able to go on and that kids were given this unique opportunity to learn in a fun and safe way.”
Matherne said she felt the enrichment program was a success when Ferdneit Bailey of St. Charles Parish Community Services remarked that the students’ work reminded her of the talented art classes she attended at Hahnville High School in Lloyd Sensat’s class.
“The reason I would like to see this replicated at all the centers in the parish is because art inspires kids to excel in and out of the classroom and stay in school,” she said, adding studies show that students who partake in art curriculums report an increase in motivation and improvements in attitude, attendance and academic performance.
“I hope that students attending these camps learn that they have the ability to succeed and appreciate the praise and criticism from their peers in the process of building self-respect,” Matherne said.
The tutoring program started by Diggs and Matherne was made possible by a grant funded through the South Louisiana Human Services Authority. Matherne said the program really took off in January 2020 but was on hiatus through the coronavirus quarantine. In June the center was able to facilitate some programming again.
“I get so excited when we do these things,” Diggs said of the art classes. “Next year I would love to do a music camp. Everyone is not into football or academics. but every kids needs to find their niche … they have to find what they’re good at.”