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Our View: CalArts is making an impact in city

Our View

Posted: December 16, 2010 8:56 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2010 4:30 a.m.

The California Institute of the Arts in Valencia should be commended for taking such an active role in helping this community.

Not only do current and former students teach music classes at West Creek Academy, but the school has banded together with the city’s Anti-Gang Task Force to help make a difference in the lives of Valle del Oro residents.

The NOMAD Lab Arts program, which is administered through CalArts, is a great example of how public-private partnerships can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

NOMAD, which is housed in the Village Apartments in Newhall, started in April to help deal with crime issues within the complex. But according to Evelyn Serrano, the program’s coordinator, the origins of the NOMAD program actually date back to four years ago, when residents of the Village and the Terrace apartment complexes and the Vistas condominiums began trying to organize.

Under the NOMAD program, CalArts students and graduates convert empty apartments into classrooms where Valle del Oro residents can learn about and participate in the arts.

But NOMAD is more than an arts appreciation program. Students also can take classes on life skills such as cooking, nonviolent communication and avoiding bullying. Since a majority of the area’s residents are Hispanic, classes are offered on specialized topics such as immigration law and the English language. When an apartment is rented, classes simply are moved to another empty unit.

NOMAD began with just 30 students and has already doubled in size. Although small in number, students have made a significant difference through their finwwal projects, which must benefit the community.

One student saw a need to give residents an outlet to tell their stories. Today, a class is offered on storytelling and creative writing.

Another student wanted to create a community garden, and so “nomad gardens” were born. “Nomad gardens” are mobile gardens that are relocated to a different family each week for care.

The benefits of programs such as NOMAD go beyond the obvious. Programs like this provide children in poorer areas of the community with positive role models and a safe outlet for their creative impulses. As Serrano said, NOMAD “gives students the (proper) context to explore their dreams.”

Programs such as NOMAD help participants build self-confidence. In the long term, they encourage greater community involvement and help create better citizens.

Programs like NOMAD also help bring people together and open important lines of communication. According to Serrano, since the inception of NOMAD, the relationship between residents and the city has improved, and attendance at community organizing meetings has gone up.

The success of the NOMAD program is a testament to the hard work, vision and creativity of organizers who saw a need and addressed it. And it’s a tribute to the passion and hard work of the selfless volunteers who take the time to work with the program’s students.

NOMAD is proof that it doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference in people’s lives. The program runs on less than $1,000 a year, donated by the city’s Anti-Gang Task Force. And the program receives in-kind donations for much of what it needs.

Thanks to the willingness of CalArts’ students and the city to get involved, thwe lives of those living in Valle del Oro are being improved every day.


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