Location: We are a mobile program. Classes and programs meet at various sites throughout Gwinnett County.
COMPANY SUMMARY The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to develop leadership potential in youth and strengthen families through academically enhanced arts enrichment programs and experiences. We provide classes, workshops, events, performances, out of school programs, summer programs, programs for homeschoolers and exhibits in two facilities in Gwinnett County. We have partnered with several other nonprofits in Gwinnett County to pool our resources and assist more youth and their families. Currently we are in need of building materials, supplies and funds to build out our spaces, expand our programs and market our services.
PROBLEM: Today’s youth face more serious and critical risks than any previous generation. According to the Children’s Defense Fund more than eighteen percent (18%) of America’s youth live below the poverty guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Experts agree that poverty, the deterioration of the traditional family unit, negative media images, substance abuse, peer pressure, violence in schools and expanding gang activities put an ever increasing number of today’s youth at risk. Youth who have trouble coping with today’s stresses are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in criminal activity, become sexually promiscuous, and attempt suicide. Many drop out of school, experience unplanned pregnancies, run away and eventually find themselves confined to detention centers or homeless. At worst many perish before reaching adulthood.
THE SOLUTION: According to a report published in 2002 by the Arts Education Partnership: “School children exposed to drama, music and dance do a better job at mastering reading, writing and math than those who focus solely on academics. Drama helps with understanding social relationships, complex issues and emotions; improves concentrated thought and story comprehension. Music improves math achievement and proficiency, reading and cognitive development; boosts SAT verbal scores and skills for second-language learners. Dance helps with creative thinking, originality, elaboration and flexibility; improves expressive skills, social tolerance, self-confidence and persistence. Visual arts improve content and organization of writing; promote sophisticated reading skills and interpretation of text, reasoning about scientific images and reading readiness. Multi-arts (combination of art forms) helps with reading, verbal and math skills; improves the ability to collaborate ad higher-order thinking skills”. An unfortunate by-product of “No Child Left Behind” has been cuts in arts programs in schools across the country. In almost direct proportion to the extent that students are marginalized, disadvantaged, or at risk, the arts exert a powerful countervailing force that keeps them in school, points them toward success, and prepares them for creative and productive lives. This we know. We also know that coalitions of parents, educators, school leaders, and community leaders believe in and want the arts for American students.
THE VISION: Creativity is essential in the healthy development of self esteem. Using performing arts as a vehicle, The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization, strives to ensure opportunities for youth from all backgrounds to do something creative and positive with their talents and their time.
OUR HISTORY The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation, Inc. was named to honor the memory of a famous performing artist who died tragically on Nov. 24, 2001 at the age of thirty four (34) while on tour in Europe. Best known for her diva vocals on world wide hits, “BE MY LOVER”, “SWEET DREAMS”, and “FALLING IN LOVE”, MELANIE THORNTON stepped out of the famous Euro-dance duo LA BOUCHE to make her own sweet dreams come true on her first solo album “READY TO FLY.” With a springboard of over 10 million singles and albums sold world wide and multi-platinum and gold sales awards in 25 countries including the USA, Germany, Italy, Canada, Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, and Greece, MELANIE THORNTON lit up the world again with her unique flavor of pop music. A thoughtful, kind and giving person, Melanie had no children, though she loved them dearly. Melanie always gave very generously to children’s charities and took an active part in numerous benefits and fundraisers for children’s causes. She was the consummate professional, always striving to improve her knowledge, skills and abilities as a performing artist. The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation started its journey 8 years ago as a company named United Dance World, known for its mobile dance classes. As the company grew and added more programs, Melanie Thornton scholarships were awarded to children who needed them. Two years ago, United Dance World transitioned into The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation, Inc and was formalized. The Foundation founded by her family, in her memory, is dedicated to continually extending Melanie’s love for children, the importance of their growth and development and the performing arts.
THE COMPANY The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation, Inc.’s programs are in direct response to the growing number of young people that are either falling through the cracks at school or are already entangled with the juvenile court system. Our goal is to identify youths who are going to have a turbulent transition to adulthood and offer positive support systems to avoid the pitfalls that can derail their lives. The focus is slightly different at each age and developmental level but the goal remains the same; empower the young person to make positive changes in his/her life. Creativity and character building is essential in the healthy development of self esteem. Using performing arts as a vehicle, The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation, Inc., a Georgia based non-profit corporation with IRS 501(c)(3) status, strives to ensure opportunities for youth from all backgrounds make positive and creative use of their time and talents by providing arts enrichment programs and services. Our organization is run by a board of directors and managed daily by a staff of fourteen. Our primary mission isto motivate, inspire and provide resources for at risk youths. Every program participant receives public recognition and applause for their efforts.
SERVICES The foundation’s primary services are provided after school and during the summer. We provide fine arts programs, scholarships, internships, mentoring, skill development, networking opportunities and resources in dance, martial arts, literature, media arts, music, theater, and art through active onsite and outreach programs.
OUT OF SCHOOL PROGRAM: The arts have always been there, said anthropologist and philosopher Ellen Dissanayake (1998), to help us feel, understand, and learn. The arts represent a different way to learn; they apply the data of the senses to problems both academic and social. Beyond that, children like the arts almost as a form of play. Research has proven that participation in the arts aids achievement, especially for disadvantaged populations (Fiske, 1999; Miller, 2003). Since the arts are being left our of schools more and more each year in order to address other areas, then arts and academics together in an after school program create a unique opportunity to engage, encourage and enrich students. Students like the arts and learn from them. The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation’s Afterschool Program services school aged at risk youth from kindergarten through twelfth grade and will include homework assistance, tutoring, study skills training, testing skills training and arts instruction. The program runs Monday through Friday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. onsite at area elementary and middle schools. For Homework assistance and tutoring, our comprehensive program will be linked to the regular school program and other community support systems in order to yield compounded results. The process of creating linkages with the school day is a developmental one. Listed below are the various points in the process. We go through each step on the continuum to achieve optimal results. Sometimes progress is not continual; factors such as new staff, loss of a grant, or a change in school leadership may affect the program for brief periods of time. Our program has been enhanced with character building lessons. We cover giving your Best Effort, how to be a Good Listener, Cooperate, be a Caring Person, be Respectful, be Responsible, Handle Anger, be a Good Citizen, How to Better Focus and more. Every month our teachers add a new character building lesson as a part of their curriculum. These lessons allow parents and school & center staff to participate as they see positive changes in the youth we serve. These character improvements help give our students the ability to create successful futures for themselves and their families.
Arts Instruction All after school participants receive arts instruction two days per week for forty-five minutes. The students and parents together select from a choice of dance, drama, chorus, music theory & appreciation, art theory & appreciation, and martial arts classes that are conducted on-site during after school hours between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Students are encouraged to participate in two public performances each year. This after school program is designed to offer academic enrichment that will boost student performance during the school day while making sure activities are engaging enough to keep students interested in their education.
COMMUNITY ARTS PROGRAMS: The foundation offers dance, drama, music, art, fitness and martial arts classes to the community.
TARGET MARKET The foundation serves all youth, however we target those at-risk between the ages of two (2) and twenty five (25) in the state of Georgia. This includes young persons who come from single parent homes, live at or below poverty level (guidelines established by the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services) as well as those suffering from major life transitions such as personal tragedy, trauma, divorce, abuse, neglect, or the death of a close relative. We also serve youth with special needs as well.
DEVELOPMENT To accomplish our mission of developing leadership potential in youth through the arts The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation has partnered with several nonprofit organizations with similar goals. Some of them include: I Can Studios LOT Community & Youth Center KiMMESTRY DZion El Greco III In the near future, the foundation hopes to grow to service between one thousand (1,000) and two thousand (2,000) youth throughout Georgia through our mobile programs.
We have aspirations to grow The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation, Inc., to become a blueprint for future fine arts programs in communities all over the South East.