A new program for a new school year

Photo by Claudia Latino

Tish Sheppard and Johnny Soln prepare for the new program coming this year.

This fall, Whitby will have its own ‘Juilliard’. All Saints Catholic Secondary School will launch a new arts program for the coming school year.

The Regional Arts and Media program offers students from Grades 7 to 12 across Durham Region the chance to incorporate the arts into their secondary school curriculum.

The new program will run alongside with the comprehensive program at the school, with students specializing in one or two of the six disciplines.

Tish Sheppard, 54, is the teaching and learning consultant for the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) for implementation of the Arts and Media program.

She said the school board didn’t want to lose Catholic secondary schools in Whitby because of decreasing enrollment.

“We thought, what can we do to help one of the populations flourish a little more?,” said Sheppard. “Our senior admin team did some research and we decided that a regional arts program was something that was necessary.”

The program offers visual arts, dance, drama, vocal music, instrumental music, and media arts. Students in Grades 7 and 8 can choose to enroll in any discipline, except for media arts. Grades 9 through 12 students are able to choose from all six.

According to Sheppard, students who combine the arts into their education can excel in any career path they choose, which is why an arts program would be beneficial for the Catholic school system.

“The value of creativity is a huge thing for students. We need creativity in our world. People are looking for 21st century skills when they are hiring, so having an arts program will fill that need,” said Sheppard.

To apply, students have to go through an interview and audition procedure for the discipline they want. The ideal candidate receives an acceptance letter and will not have to apply again. Fifteen students will be chosen for each category.

Students enrolled for the September 2018 school year have already completed their auditions and those selected have received their letter of acceptance.

Students don’t have to be experienced in the arts to apply, but Sheppard says it is an asset.

Students who are Catholic or non-Catholic across Durham Region can apply. Transportation is finalized and will be offered to students who live outside of Whitby.

“We will be providing some form of transportation. It is going to be a central location where students can be picked up,” she said.

Grades 7 and 8 students who are accepted will still complete their required elementary curriculum. They will leave their elementary school and become part of the All Saints community, including wearing the required uniform.

The school’s third floor will soon be dedicated to these students and those in Grade 8 will still have their school trip and graduation.

“I think we are preparing them for a great opportunity in high school to get a great education experience,” said Sheppard. “The arts are going to help them flourish in whatever way they need to in their post-secondary choices whether it’s college or university.”

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Claudia Latino is a journalism student who loves to tell stories through broadcast and social media. She especially loves sharing stories about the celebrity-world of entertainment.