Kidpower students working with artist Zach Bgaason (Medium)



Release Day Story

During Release Day Camp in January, Artist Zach Bagaason made beautiful music with the students; the result is this CD he shared with them; they are listening to it every day. Listen to 5 of the songs below.


3  New After-school stories

Julio, a kindergartener, began the school year as a student who seemed unsure of how to play with others. In a moment of conflict, his body was his primary tool for solving problems–he lived in a bilingual world and was still developing language skills that all of his peers could understand. As his teacher, I often picked the brains of my colleagues to brainstorm ideas or ways to form connections with Julio and help facilitate experiences he would most enjoy, hoping this would create a stronger sense of security and community for him.  With our new, spring term intern group, we created a “buddy system” for Julio: we paired him with an enthusiastic intern with a psychology and art background who could model and facilitate healthy play, help him verbally advocate for his needs, and feed him some consistent 1-on-1 connection and warmth. The day we implemented this new approach, he came out of his shell in ways we hadn’t expected. He showed stronger interest in group games, he smiled and laughed in the company of other students, and he willingly looked to his “buddy” for help when needed. In the classroom, he had always shown passion for making art, but his focus became even more dedicated with the gentle support of his “buddy” nearby. Consistency, warmth, and developing new, positive experiences were the simple recipe for Julio’s social and artistic success!


“Two of our step-up staff, high school students who had gone through our UAA programming since elementary school, have been arriving early to pick-up their siblings.  They stay for a up to a half-hour some days of their accord, leading gym activities, demonstrating leadership skills and conflict resolution, and mentoring younger students.”


“An eighth grade UAA student who has been in and out of our art programming since 2nd grade, mentioned in an interview that he uses art as a ‘coping mechanism’ when hard emotions such as anger arise.  He has learned from UAA that when he feels very upset, he can go into his room and draw – making one perfect drawing each time.”

After-school  Stories:

Students in two classes, ages 5th-8th grade, have written (lyrics and beats) and recorded two songs with Stefon Taylor thanks to the Urban Music and Technology grant through Best Buy!  They are working on their next songs! What an amazing accomplishment! Thank you BEST BUY!

You can listen to the songs below.

Another one;

After working with our resident music artist, Stefon, for fall semester, a Middle School student ran up to him and asked him to help her record her own album!  He said that he would love to, and they have begun working on songs.

The students are enjoying the Urban Music program so much, they consistently choose to work on their song projects independently when the music artist is not even there!

Student Success Story

 “Jay” is a 15-year-old student who has been a UAA participant for 11 consecutive years. He and his siblings are being raised by their grandmother in the Powderhorn neighborhood, due to very challenging family dynamics. All of his siblings also attend UAA.

Jay began attending UAA’s Arts Preschool when he was four years old, and he then attended UAA’s After-School Program through 8th grade. When he was about to enter 9th grade, he applied with the City of Minneapolis “Step-Up” paid internship program, and he was accepted to intern at UAA. He showed great leadership by sharing his knowledge, expertise, and care for younger students. When Jay was asked to reflect on some of his favorite memories at UAA, he shared: jamming with artist Stefon Taylor in the Urban Music classes; graffiti art with artist Alfonzo Fernandez; “Fantasy” mural with artist Alicia Martinson; and constructing a giant wood elephant in the UAA courtyard.

Last summer, Jay returned to intern and participate in the middle school leadership program offered in partnership with Project Footsteps. He shared that he never imagined he could be an agent of change, but now he believes that he can have an impact in his school, family, and community.

Jay recently participated in a site visit with a UAA funder, at which one of the interviewers asked him, “You have been with UAA for 11 years – what keeps you coming back?” He answered: “I have a difficult family situation and UAA has been a safe home for me year after year; members of my family came every year to our family nights and discovered a lot about art expression and community. I learned so much about how to express myself through art…and it helped me grow and get confidence.” 

One from Preschool:

“My particular success story is all about Daniel.  When he first came into class he was a bit timid and shy.  He has since broken out of his shell and is a very active and bright young man.  Well, we have been working hard on writing his name for some time.  He always said “Miss Laura, I can’t do this.” and our response was always, “can you try the D”?  and he would try.  Well just the other day, Daniel came over to us and said “Look, I wrote my name!” The smile on his face could melt the polar ice caps.”