When the eighth-grade students at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy on Detroit’s west side talk about things their school needs, they point to a classmate named Casey.
“He’s a great artist,” one student said. “He can look at a picture and draw it in like five minutes and it will look exactly the same.”
If Casey attended school in the suburbs, his friends believe, he and other talented students would have an art class where they could nurture their skills.
“They don’t have the time to put in the work with their talent because we don’t have those extra-curricular activities,” another classmate said.
The students at the K-8 school have no art, music or gym teachers — a common problem in a district where resources are thin and where a teacher shortage has made it difficult for schools like this one to find teachers for many subjects, including the arts.
While the Detroit district has committed to expanding arts programs next year, it would need to find enough teachers to fill those positions. That’s the problem at Paul Robeson Malcolm X where there’s money in the budget for an art teacher but no one has taken that job.
“People out there think we’re not smart and they always criticize us about what we do,” Casey said. “We can always show them how smart we are,” he said, but that requires “getting the type of programming that we’re supposed to.”
Watch the full video of the Paul Robeson/Malcolm X students below and please tell us if you know someone who would like their story featured in a future story booth.