California Educator

October / November 2018

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" I believe the arts and creativity are a means of transformation, and society needs to invest in it." — Ben Stanton, Compton Education Association B E N S T A N T O N B E L I E V E S that life is art, and art is life. So it's no wonder that he considers skateboards, shoes, bag lunches, T-shirts and the schoolyard to be canvases for his young artists at Davis Middle School in Compton. For many youngsters in this low-in- come community, Stanton's class is their introduction to art. However, students frequently tell him not to expect much, because they are not artistic. " T h e w o rd 'a r t i st ' c a n s o m e t i m e s stop people," says Stanton, a member of Compton Education Association. "My job is just getting kids to try to believe in themselves." It works. Little by little his students b e c o m e m o re c o n f i d e n t a s t h e y g e t in touch with their creative side, and become amazed at their abilities. Several have even sold their artwork. Stanton was named "Lifechanger of the Year" in 2016-17, selected from more than 720 teachers, administrators and school employees nominated nationwide. He received a $3,000 prize from National Life Group, which sponsors the competition. He was honored for implem enting six initiatives: grassroots fundraising to pay for his school's art studio; partner- ing with nonprofits and corporations to create unique art projects for students; Confidence and Creativity Art teacher is a 'life changer' for Compton kids By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Scott Buschman promoting student philanthropy; partner- ing with museums for educational field trips; developing "circle painting" mural projects to promote teambuilding; and bringing local and international artists into his classroom to enhance learning. "I believe the arts and creativity are a means of tra n sf orm ati on, and soci- ety needs to invest in it," says Stanton, a Compton teacher for 11 years. "I raise money for my classes, because we receive nothing for supplies. Ever y thing has either come from my own personal funds or donations. Sometimes we do fundrais- ers with restaurants donating a portion of their proceeds for an evening. S t a n t o n p a r tn e re d w ith Br i d ge t o Skate, a nonprofit that builds skate parks and schools in Honduras, and together t h e y c re a t e d t h e C o m p t o n P ly w o o d Project. Used skateboard decks were donated to ser ve as a canvas for stu- dents' custom artwork. Stanton reached out to corporations including Vans, Jack's Surf Shop and Active, which provided pri zes for an exhibit and sale of stu- dent-painted skateboards, with students donating a portion of their proceeds to charities of their choice. The artwork proved so popular that Stanton contin- ues to help students sell skateboards on Instagram. (To view student art visit #comptonplywoodproject.) In another project, Stanton partnered with Shuzz, a nonprofit that brings water, medical supplies and shoes to impover- ished countries including Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba. For the past three years Shuzz has sponsored an art poster contest for Stanton's students, and the winning entry is used to promote the organization's back-to-school campaign and banquet. 14 Perspectives M E M B E R S P O T L I G H T

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