I suppose the love affair for working with arts + community grew from one THE MOST AMAZING experiences in my professional career. From 2007-2009, I was blessed to start the Art Institute at the Maya Angelou Academy (MAA) at New Beginnings in Washington, DC. MAA is an alternative school operated by the non-profit, See Forever Foundation for youth who are adjudicated as delinquent and committed to it's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. "Without intervention, only 1 out of 10 students who have been adjudicated delinquent will go on to get a high school diploma" and more specifically, in 2007, 1 out 4 Baltimore male students would go on to graduate from high school. When I saw some of these statistics in the Baltimore-based film, Boys of Baraka, I knew I had met my purpose and that was to provide quality arts education to all. I saw first-hand how arts and expression impacted the lives of our scholars. I saw first-hand how art can bring seemingly 2 or more separate worlds together. This was both beautiful, humbling, risky, challenging and bottom line ....worth it! Our grassroots cohort used progressive teaching strategies and collaborated with community services to provide our scholars with the best tools for re-entry into their communities. This wasn't by far, the easiest job, but waking up every day knowing that I could introduce our scholars to a world that would allow them to vent, be right, be wrong and just be, was a pretty amazing way to wake up everyday. And you know what? I learned so much from them as well. I am so grateful for sharing the beginning of my career at Maya Angelou Academy, because it shaped me into the type of art educator and person I wanted to be.