It is imperative that creative approaches to education are supported as domestic and international programs undergo improvement. Limiting creativity in education through the arts, culture, and foreign language initiatives hinders the development of each student as a contributing member of global society. Successful education programs can guide the growth of our children as individuals, improve the development of families for future generations, and impact the evolution of entire societies. It is essential that we prepare our children for a global and interconnected world and that the ability to communicate across diverse worlds enables them to promote peace worldwide.
Following years of work in the international fashion industry as a model, stylist, and businesswoman, I accepted a position in a government fellowship in education in an inner city district. Over several years, I have been fortunate to learn about the complex field and the government initiatives in place for children and families in the United States through work as an educator and social entrepreneur in Long Branch, New Jersey. Given the recent education reform movement in the United States, news issues of tolerance between East and West, and constant stream of news on conflicts worldwide; I feel lucky to have my own hands on experiences to share from the field in the United States education system alongside the unparalleled global exposure one gains from work as an international fashion model.
Long Branch Public Schools in New Jersey has implemented a number of programs to serve its multicultural population in this city where Bruce Springsteen was born. The team is developing sustainable leadership academy programs where students are encouraged to reach their potential through strong values and commitment in a challenging environment. The overall academy is designed to enable students to become decisive, disciplined, and caring leaders. One key aspect of this special city is the colorful thread from which the multicultural tapestry of the community is woven. The high percentage of immigrants come from all areas of the world including Mexico, China, India, and South American and European countries to pursue the American Dream for their families.
Maya Angelou visited the local community college to speak about inspiration and our responsibility to be the "Rainbow in the Clouds." An annual international showcase takes place in Long Branch to celebrate the diversity of the town in the form of student art and cultural artifact galleries, song, dance, and a culinary tasting room with contributions from the families. I have parlayed my experience of years in the Bryant Park tents and international markets to produce student fashion shows of global costume to represent the nations reflected in the city's colorful multicultural tapestry. Just to give one example, my appreciation for the Chinese culture and Mandarin language skills absorbed during my tenure at Vivienne Tam's design house have translated into festive Chinese New Year celebrations each year.
The No Child Left Behind Act, which has a strict focus on reading and math test scores as results following a demanding program, leaves limited time for subjects like art, foreign languages, culture, and music. This innovative team in Long Branch integrates creativity and technology into each day whenever possible. Last winter, I began a project with Her Majesty Queen Rania's Madrasati District in Jordan to address issues of tolerance and bridge the gap between East and West through the United Nations Girls Education Initiative. Students in Long Branch's Leadership Academy formed a connection with Madrasati by mailing packages of letters, pictures, and souvenirs. Students are sharing to discover different cultures and mitigate the stereotypes that often arise which is enlightening children and preparing them for interaction in a global world. My exhibition of art and jewelry titled "April in Paris: Rainbow in the Clouds," at a gallery in Barcelona, Spain, inspired by Maya Angelou and her own life work, has financed the foundation of this project and other materials, people, and organizations I have outsourced.
As Sir Ken Robinson suggests, there can never be enough creativity in the schooling of our children. Education is a key ingredient in improving society and world peace: in our own homes, cities, and around the globe. It has the potential to help prepare children for success in an increasingly global world. Incorporating more time devoted to creative subjects in education into an academic curriculum will enhance the experience. During this time where systems are being reevaluated, it is important that educators and decision-makers alike consider these elements while formulating new plans which will maintain our place in the world. Without creative approaches to education which include adequate time devoted to foreign languages, the arts, culture, and the environment, we are depriving our children and future from the tools we need for survival and success in this ever-tumultuous world. The future of our children, their families, and peaceful development of our society is at stake, and waiting until tomorrow to take action ourselves might not be soon enough.
Follow Kate Gibbs on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KateGibbsVamos