Lights, Cameras, Action: Start and Finish Strong

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One of the highlights of 2016 for me came when Youth Specialties asked to film a short documentary about Thrive Collective’s work to feature at the National Youth Workers Convention in November.

We had essentially twelve hours for filming — not much to cover 100 schools, 150 partner organizations, and 50,000 students across all five boroughs. I fast tracked their visit with a whirlwind tour of schools in the Bronx and Manhattan, and hoped for the best.

They nailed it.

They interviewed Victoria first, a high school student from the Bronx. It was hard to stay composed as she shared her story:

“It’s not every day where a kid like me who came out of a one-bedroom apartment with six brothers or sisters, sitting down thinking she’s not going to get anywhere — it’s not everyday where someone like Jeremy is going to come up to me and be like, I have a special role for you, and I want you to take part of it.

“I thank God that I’m able to get this opportunity. And I think that He sent people like them to come to me and pick me up out of what I’ve been through.”

Photo: Victoria painting at the Coney Art Walls.

My interview was last, which gave me time to listen again to Victoria and others, and to reflect again on why this work matters. The point for us is never a mural or film festival, a music recital or mentoring relationship. Those outputs simply confirm that our process works.

The larger point — the “why” Thrive exists — is the hope and opportunity our programs create, and which produce exponential impacts long after the programs end.

In 2016, we served 2,800 Victoria’s — students enrolled in our visual arts, music, and film classes in 23 schools. Together, they created 7,000 square feet of public art with fifteen school mural projects, forty student films, and three music recitals. 100% of the graduating seniors from our Mentors program were accepted and enrolled in four-year colleges this fall. Our students and artists hosted a borough-wide arts festival in the Bronx and a citywide art exhibit at the United Federation of Teachers, and received accolades from Mayor Bill De Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, City Council members and more.

Bring Art Back: Our Vision for 2017 and Beyond

We can’t imagine a world without visual or performing arts, music or film, or any expression at all — and neither can you. Yet we sentence a quarter of a million of our most vulnerable New Yorkers to that kind of artless education everyday. 419 public schools in NYC’s lowest income neighborhoods lack art teachers of any kind.

With your help, this injustice can be fully eradicated within three years.

Art education awakens creative imagination and restores the power of choice. By supporting Bring Art Back, you create hope and opportunity through arts and mentoring in public schools.

“I have a special role for you, and I want you to take part.”

If one line from Victoria’s video captures my dream for Thrive Collective, that’s it. To thrive collectively means necessary and unique roles for every one of us. If we are ever going to fulfill the promise of public education for all New Yorkers, all of us can and must do something to make it so.

Victoria gets it. Do you?

As we close 2016 strong and launch into 2017 even stronger, every dollar you give or pledge by January 15th will be matched by a generous donor up to $36,000.

Not all of you can work directly in our schools as artists or mentors, and not all of these students can raise their voice in a video, but every one of you can directly invest in our students by helping us maximize this match. Some of you can even join us as monthly supporters in 2017. No gift is too large or too small.

You can make your tax deductible gift online at or by mail to 8225 5th Avenue #323, Brooklyn, NY 11209. Thank you for considering an investment in Thrive Collective this year.

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