Arts-inspired Service-Learning Connects Teens with NU Students

By Noa Golan

AFH.pngThis past semester, I had the opportunity to accompany Jamal Thorne’s 2D Fundamentals of Surface & Drawing class on their service to Artists for Humanity (AFH). To start off: AFH is a very unique organization that pays inner-city high school students to spend 3 days a week painting. The kids not only get a weekly salary, but they also receive money if their paintings sell (and let me tell you…they do sell!). Walking around AFH, I was stunned by the quality of the work that the kids were doing!

This class was a very different form of service-learning class than really any other service-learning course that I had seen in the past; instead of students doing service in addition to their class time, this course actually had their class on-site at AFH. The first hour or so was dedicated to a lecture by the incredibly charismatic and hilarious Jamal. The rest of the 4-hour class was dedicated to Jamal’s students working on a project in the AFH studio. Additionally, Jamal actually works with the kids at AFH prior to class and gives the AFH students the same lecture that the NEU students receive so that both sets of students are on the same page. Each of the Northeastern students is paired up with one of the AFH students and they work together throughout the semester.AFH2

During my visit, I had an opportunity to speak with Jamal about how he felt the AFH students were benefiting from the NEU students’ presence and his answer was not at all what I was expecting. He told me that many of the AFH students actually had significantly more experience painting than did the NEU students, so the benefit was not in the artistic mentorship that the NEU students were providing. Rather, the service came from the fact that the AFH students were able to help the NEU students on their projects. This relationship empowered the AFH students and allowed them to be in a relationship where their voices are heard and their input matters. I agree with Jamal that this is an incredible feeling for a teenager to have- especially when interacting with college students.

Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to AFH. Jamal’s model is extremely inspirational and I hope that future professors and students are as inspired by his course as I am!

Noa was a member of the spring 2016 Service-Learning Street Team.

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