Artpod: Detroit arts group inspires students to succeed

Dec 14, 2011

Artpod is back!

In today's podcast, we look at how an arts group is encouraging lower-income kids to go on to college, with measurable results. It's called Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, which one student describes as a place filled with "pops of rainbow colors."

Here's an excerpt:

There are 160 students in Mosaic – the vast majority African American - and they come from all over metro Detroit. Anyone can audition, there’s no minimum GPA requirement, and it’s free to participate.

Rick Sperling is Mosaic’s founder and CEO. He says "about a third of the kids are below the poverty line, the other third are working poor – low to moderate income, and a third are above that. So you have a mix, and that’s very dynamic."

Sperling says they level the playing field by providing extra support to those who need it, whether it’s with home issues or school. But the same high bar is set for all students, no matter what background they come from: show up for rehearsal on time and ready to work, respect one another, and stay in school. No exceptions.

As for college, a University of Michigan study found that when students first enroll in Mosaic, fewer than two-thirds say they want to go to college.

But after just one year in Mosaic, nearly all the students say they plan to go to college. Many say they want to go on to graduate school, too.

In other words, this relatively small arts group in Detroit has succeeded where so many others have failed. When schools or churches or families couldn’t or wouldn’t, Mosaic stepped in to give these kids a future.

Have a question, comment, or story idea for the podcast? Email us at artpodradio@umich.edu

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