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Bronx Arts Academy Helps Kids Fulfill Their Dreams

by Rebecca Lewis
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Jonathan Paredes, a Fred Dolan Academy Graduate

The Academy says every kid who graduated the program went on to college with a scholarship.

A lot of kids spend their weekends hanging out with friends or watching television, but not the young folks at the Fred Dolan Arts Academy in the Bronx.  They’re preparing for their futures in a program founded by a native Bronxite who simply wanted to give kids an opportunity for a better life. 

The Fred Dolan Arts Academy was founded in 2006 by Neil Waldman.  It’s named after Waldman’s friend, who was a long-time educator in the Bronx. 

Waldman grew up in what he describes as a blue collar neighborhood.  He always wanted to be an artist, and recalls his father telling him the only way to get into art school is to get your grades up.  Waldman says he opened the arts academy under the same premise.

“I found that exactly like I was there are many, many artists in the Bronx who have no idea they can become professional artists.  Do it for the rest of their lives and if they get their grades high enough, and even go to college for free, and so now we’re in our eighth year.”

Waldman’s proud to say that every kid, some 23 of them, who’s come through his program, has gone on to college with a scholarship.  That’s quite an accomplishment considering where many of them have come from.

“We have kids who have spent most of their lives in homeless shelters, we have one kid whose father was a drug addict and died in front of him with an overdose.”

T’Ziah Ford is a high school junior from the South Bronx.  She’s been in the program for about a year.  T’Ziah says she got bullied a lot as a kid, and art helped her through it.

“It made be feel better, it helped me get out what I was feeling on paper because I was always terrible at the diary thing.  And ripping up paper did absolutely nothing.”

T’Ziah is putting together a portfolio of her work, and setting her sights on becoming a professional artist or art teacher. 



 

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