“I believe arts education in music, theatre, dance and the visual arts is one of the most creative ways we have to find the gold that is buried just beneath the surface,” said former US Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley. “They (children) have an enthusiasm for life, a spark of creativity, and vivid imaginations that need training – training that prepares them to become confident young men and women.” Antonio Scott has returned to these words many times when he explains why the arts are fundamental for our schools. Antonio is the Fine Arts Program Specialist for the St. Johns County School District and has almost twenty years of experience in public education. Before his education career, Antonio was a professional dancer and music composer, so he has personally reaped the benefits of an arts education. “I know firsthand the power of exposing every student to a variety of arts,” he says, “and how it can increase one’s skill-set to successfully navigate most challenges in life.”
As a whole, St. Johns County places an emphasis on providing a diverse education for its students, which includes fine arts. Every school has an arts program of some kind. In elementary and middle school, students learn instrumental music and the visual arts in different media. The Webster School has a dance program for 4th and 5th grade, and many middle schools have drama, chorus, and musical theatre. At the high school level, a wide variety of visual and performing arts are elective courses at all area high schools.
The skills of these talented students throughout the school system hardly remain isolated within their institution. Local arts students can be found in visual arts exhibitions at the St. Augustine Arts Association or in performances in local theatres, at festivals, parades, competitions. “We engage in mutually beneficial partnerships with numerous community organizations,” says Antonio, “such as EMMA, INK, Compassionate St Augustine, Betty Griffin House, The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra, The Players, and the West St Augustine Improvement Association among others.” Community and parent groups continually devote their time and resources to keeping these arts programs alive.
The continual growth of our county leads to unique challenges, but the district remains committed to the well-rounded education of all its students. “We stand behind the quality and variety of our arts programming,” says Antonio, “and at the same time recognize there is always room to build upon continued excellence.”
Learn more about the St. Johns County arts programs by visiting www.stjohns.k12.fl.us/arts.