Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker to Adopt Failing Schools

A new initiative hopes to improve scores and motivation through arts programs.

Posted: 04/27/2012 11:34 AM EDT

Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, and other artists have joined a new initiative that will pair them up with some of the worst-performing schools in the country in the hopes of improving scores and motivation through arts programs. President Barack Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities announced a new Turnaround Arts project for eight schools in both urban and rural areas.

Washington, who is starring in the new ABC drama Scandal, will adopt a District of Columbia school over the next two years while Whitaker will be involved with a school in Des Moines. The initiative wants to demonstrate that arts programs can help reduce behavioral problems and increase attention in the classroom as well as overall academic success. Washington says arts help students implement the lessons they learn in the classroom and are more than just "sprinkles on the icing."

The project will grant schools with new training for instructors, art supplies, musical instruments, and programs that will equal about $1 million per year. Artists in the committee, which also include actress Sarah Jessica Parker, artist Chuck Close, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, dancer Damian Woetzel, and actress Alfre Woodard, will present programs to students and teachers, create community partnerships, and raise funds in order for their school's programs to continue after the initial two years.

Washington says being involved in children's theater and ballet when she was growing up in the crack-stricken Bronx saved her from possibly going down an unfortunate path.

"I literally remember walking to dance class, walking those two blocks from my house and seeing crack vials on the street," Washington said. "I just think, if I wasn't walking to dance class, where would I have been walking? I just don't know," she says. "I come from a great family," Washington said. "But it's easy to fall through the cracks without those resources around you, without those extra things that get you excited about learning."


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