Lead Story West Edition

Russell Simmons brings arts program to Compton school

COMPTON —Entrepreneur, activist, author and philanthropist Russell Simmons visited Whaley Middle School here Sept. 16 as part of the national Turnaround Arts program.

Simmons spent his day with Whaley students listening to poetry and band performances and a question and answer sessions followed by a meeting with PrincipalCandice Waters to discuss the program and how best to support the students’ continued progress.

Turnaround Arts empowers schools with arts resources, training and arts integration into other subject areas as a strategy to address broader school challenges.

As one part of the program, Turnaround Arts schools receive intensive arts education resources and high profile artist mentors.

Whaley Middle School joined the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in May.

Whaley is one of 68 Turnaround Arts schools across the country. Turnaround Arts supports a measurable, positive impact on high-need schools by increasing student engagement and narrowing the achievement gap.

Research shows increases in reading and math scores, as well as an increase in attendance and a decrease in suspensions after a few years of participation in the Turnaround Arts program.

Russell Simmons, wearing a New York Yankees cap, brought the Turnaround Arts Program to Whaley Middle School in Compton Sept. 16. Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, executive director of Turnaround Arts: California, is next to Simmons. (Courtesy photo)
Russell Simmons, wearing a New York Yankees cap, brought the Turnaround Arts Program to Whaley Middle School in Compton Sept. 16. Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, executive director of Turnaround Arts: California, is next to Simmons. (Courtesy photo)

“The imagination is everything,” Simmons said. “It is critical that students are given opportunities to express themselves creatively and have access to visual art, music, poetry and dance, regardless of their ZIP code. That is why I’m here in Compton during national arts in education week.”

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, executive director of Turnaround Arts: California joined Simmons for the visit.

“We are so grateful to Russell Simmons for inspiring our students — last year in Stockton and now in Compton,” Shriver said. “His visit to Whaley Middle School during National Arts in Education Week, amplifies his teaching about the importance of arts education, music, and cultivating one’s imagination through mindfulness.”