When Maria Herrera, principal of the Renaissance High School for Musical Theater and Technology in the Bronx, describes her students, it’s difficult for her to not become emotional. 14 years ago, the school was created with the intention to provide arts education in a borough with limited access to theater, music, art and dance.
According to the Department of Education’s 2014-15 Arts in School report, eight percent of high schools in the Bronx offer 6-8 credits of theater, 14 percent offer 6-8 credits of music and only four percent offer dance. While the city has increased its arts budget, the greatest challenge for arts education is providing access and equity to all students in the system. Even with increased city-wide funding, major divides exist between ‘art-rich’ and ‘art-poor’ schools.
Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Technology is committed to providing a comprehensive arts education program for its approximately 460 students in grades 9-12. But, the school also faces many challenges. Located in one of the poorest congressional districts in the Bronx, the majority of students face stark poverty; 70 percent of students rely on free and reduced lunches while graduation rates hover around 75 percent.
The arts are an invaluable asset for students' education, yet these programs are often cut or neglected in lieu of other subjects. Renaissance is an example of a public school committed to sustaining its arts program; the school is committed to providing students with their best chance for a better future.