A local non-profit places at-risk youth on a path to success. See how they’re changing things up to provide some major support.
The Cincinnati Arts and Technology Studios (CATS) wants to help local youth in Cincinnati Public Schools. According to CATS Marketing and Communications Director Brooke Sallas, the non-profit organization is doing just that by partnering students from the school district with like-minded organizations to help students earn fine arts and elective credits so they can graduate from high school on time and head down a path to a successful life.
“Our team of staff, art instructors, board of directors, and partners are dedicated to unlocking each student’s potential, equipping them with critical life skills and nurturing their unique abilities through graduation and beyond,” explains Sallas.
The program at CATS was modeled after the Manchester Bidwell Training Center, which inspires to re-engage young adults in their education while helping them discover their self-worth through the power of art.
“Students work alongside professional artists in a first-class environment featuring cutting-edge technology and equipment, where they are nurtured and encouraged to develop skills that will propel them into successful futures,” says Sallas.
The history of CATS goes back to 2003 when it was established by a small group of passionate leaders who wanted to make a difference in the Tri-State. Those founders include Lee Ault Carter, Pierre Wevers, Bob Castellini, and Bill Strickland.
Today the program offers five studio courses including ceramics, 2-D design, 3-D design, digital multimedia, and stained glass, all of which are designed to meet Ohio Department of Education visual arts standards and are open to high school juniors, seniors, and overage underclassmen.
“Each course offers students the opportunity to earn credits toward graduation,” says Sallas. “Many of our students also enroll in our highly-notable workforce development program, Bridging the Gap (BTG), that focuses on preparing graduates to launch successful careers following high school graduation. BTG also provides skilled workers to industries that have a shortage of talent.”
CATS offers support to kids in the community in several ways, according to Sallas. These include:
- Building consistent relationships with students, schools, and partners
- Meet at-risk teens where they are
- Provide a first-class learning environment
- Maintain small classes to ensure personalized attention
- Empower teens to define and achieve success through a culture of respect, a strong message of success, accountability, instruction, and caring
- Leverage the arts to help students create their lives as they do their art
- Staff successful working artists with hearts for at-risk teens
- Support 18 months post-graduation to help them stay successful
Sallas says that what helps CATS stand out is that the program is closely connected to Cincinnati Public Schools to work collaboratively on behalf of students while also marrying professional teaching artists with career educators to offer a model of education in a small student-to-artist ratio.
Students also receive support in training and certification, connections with employer partners, access to college mentoring, local college tours, and extended opportunities.
The support offered through CATS is just the beginning as there are several new things on the horizon for the organization.
“We just went through a rebrand and we are focusing on brand awareness and connecting with our community,” says Sallas, who recently joined CATS to help reverse the sentiment of being a ‘hidden gem’ in Cincinnati.
Additionally, says Sallas, the Young Professional committee is working to bring a series of Sip and Paints to offer fun and engaging activities while showcasing the work CATS does.
“We were also recently selected by UC DAAP for the E2C Symposium, a design blitz benefitting a local non-profit, where DAAP’s emerging creatives investigate our facility through design thinking to improve our current space and bring about a more innovative environment to our students,” says Sallas.