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Using art as learning aid for traumatized

by Long Beach Press-Telegram

Christi Wilkins says she is passionate about working with fourth- and sixth-graders in the Long Beach and Compton school districts who come from families that have experienced a lot of drama and trauma.

With her not-for-profit Long Beach-based agency Dramatic Results, Wilkins, 51, teaches disadvantaged youths – students who Wilkins says many people in the educational system already have written off as unteachable – math skills such as measurements, conversions, algebra and geometry via basket weaving and folding origami.

The 24-hour classes, which are taught during the school year, are divided into 24 hourlong weekly workshops.

“We engage students with art to learn math,” Wilkins said.

Since Dramatic Results was founded in 1992, thousands of students in Long Beach and Compton have taken the art-integrated classes. These students have significantly increased their academic and behavioral performance at school, said Wilkins, the founder and executive director at Dramatic Results.

As a result, Wilkins, who has helped raise more than $17 million over the years to fund the programs, has garnered a nomination for the 2011 Press-Telegram Amazing Women Award in the arts and culture category.

Wilkins was nominated by Hamilton Middle School teacher Racquel Welch-Kitchen, who has worked with Wilkins for three years.

“Christi and her wonderful staff provided my sixth-graders (with) project-based learning opportunities that fused mathematical concepts with origami and scientific inquiry,” Welch-Kitchen said. “The students were challenged to apply math concepts to design and build model bridges and planes.

“As a result, my students came alive with enthusiasm, confidence in teamwork and a love for mathematics.”

Dramatic Results was born out of Wilkins’ own dramatic and traumatic childhood, she said.

Born in Oregon to a single mother, Wilkins spent her childhood moving from place to place before she and her mom settled in Northern California.

Wilkins dropped out of high school at 15 and received her GED a year later before earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wilson College in Pennsylvania, she said.

After living in Europe for five years, Wilkins returned to California in 1988 and was a grant writer with a not-for-profit Orange County theater company.

Four years later, Wilkins left the group, and, with $2,500 in seed money, launched Dramatic Results.

The pilot program taught 15 students in Long Beach. Since then, more than 18,000 Los Angeles County students have taken the workshops.

Dramatic Results is one of only three agencies in California to receive a U.S. Department of Education Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grant three times.

The department has recognized Dramatic Results as “a model among models in arts education.”

“I had educators who stepped out of the woodwork and helped me make good choices,” Wilkins said. “I have empathy for kids who feel like outcasts.”, 562-499-1258

Snapshot: Christi Wilkins

Occupation: Executive director of Dramatic Results

What defines an amazing woman? “An amazing woman is somebody who envisions something that didn’t exist before and does it. She has a sense of wonderment and is a life-long learner. She is constantly seeking to make things better.”

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