by Sarah Johnson
While Westinghouse High School recently made the news for an ill-fated flirtation with a new system, a year-round after-school arts program has been far more successful.
For the past five years, the school has been educating their students beyond the classroom with the innovative Lighthouse Project, an after-school program that gives students the opportunity to pursue the arts under the supervision of trained mentors. Among the many fields offered are music production, filmmaking, poetry, architectural design, visual art, graphic design, and theater. Throughout the year, students are encouraged to explore their artistic passions while receiving guidance and support from their mentors. In addition, the program offers academic tutoring, leadership development, and community service opportunities to better prepare students for college and beyond. It also gives students real-world experience and technical training in their chosen fields to give them an advantage in today’s difficult, and often stupid, job market.
While the students work year-round on their projects, the final showcase of the year was presented last Thursday at Westinghouse. Students took the stage to perform their original poetry, theatrical plays, and music. The filmmaking module’s showed a documentary about a local artist who emphasized how much Homewood and its residents mean to her. Rachel Shepherd and Kris Veenis of the Steeltown Entertainment Project oversee the video portions of the Lighthouse Project by working with the students throughout the year to teach them basic filmmaking skills, such as camera operation, sound recording, and editing.
The Lighthouse program also features an outdoor garden where students grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs that were used in appetizers served before the show, such as thyme-infused lemonade, spinach and artichoke dip, and mixed green salad with herb dressing. To help fund the program for next year, students sold books of their poetry along with CDs they created using the professional-level recording studio to which the Lighthouse Project provides access.
Students took home a variety of awards, including certificates for those who participated in a service project to clean up the nine-mile run watershed and to students who participated in the Lighthouse Project for the entire year. Additional awards were given to the most improved student, most dedicated student, and the student who showed the greatest leadership potential.
The genres in which the students performed on stage didn’t matter—each teenager seemed to be having a blast. They teased each other, and the faculty, while cheering their classmates, demonstrating the strength of their bonds they have developed through the program.