A Head Start for Foster Youth in the Arts

Whether it’s working as an intern at the American Youth Symphony, helping abused children express their emotions through art or working at the avant-garde Rogue Machine Theatre Company in Arlington Heights, foster youth had a head start this year in applying for a summer job at dozens of arts organizations throughout the county.

“There was interest from the Board of Supervisors to give emancipated youth access to the program. But organizations were getting tons of resumes in years past. So we thought, why not open it up a couple weeks early,” said Angela Gaspar-Milanovic, professional development programs manager for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

Three years ago, the Board of Supervisors instructed the Los Angeles County Arts Commission to give foster and emancipated youth preference in the arts internship program. While the Arts Commission cannot hold these positions, in subsequent years, they developed a plan to give a head start to foster youth in the application process by working with the Department of Children and Family Services. This year, DCFS reached out to foster youth to encourage all eligible interested college students to apply two weeks ahead of the general public to all 74 available paid summer internships. Graduating seniors who complete their undergraduate degrees between May 1 – September 1, 2013 are eligible, as well as current undergraduates. Applicants must have completed at least one semester of college by June 2013 and be currently enrolled in a community college or a four-year university. Applicants must either be a Los Angeles County resident or attend school in the county. Students who have previously participated in the Los Angeles County Arts Internship Program are not eligible to participate a second time.

The positions are for 10 weeks and pay $350 per week. Interns also take part in educational and arts networking activities. Through the program, interns gain real work experience to strengthen their resumes and develop business skills that can be put to use in their future careers.

“With the summer arts internship program, it gives students transferable skills,” said Gaspar-Milanovic. “Whether they’re going to work professionally in the arts or not. Whether they become ticket buyers, whether they go to arts events, this is giving them really solid skills that they can use down the line such as marketing, social media and administration. These skills are completely transferable.”

The other Second District organizations include Ebony Repertory Theatre, the non-profit LA Commons, the writers collective Les Figues Press, the Crenshaw based dance studio Lula Washington Dance Theatre, theater company focused on new collaborative theater Odyssey Theatre Foundation, the LGBT focused film festival Outfest, and the non-profit theatre company Son of Semele Ensemble.

Internship positions close as soon as they are filled during the April 3 to May 17 application period. Go to www.lacountyarts.org, click on “Internships,” then “Opportunities for Students.” Interested students should act as soon as positions are posted as there is stiff competition for a limited number of internships.

While many jobs in the public and private sectors continue to diminish, fresh jobs aimed at careers in the arts are inspiring for many Los Angeles County college students.

“Arts are important,” said Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “An early chance at a career in the arts can combat the pipeline to prison for young foster youth. Instead of teaching our kids how to become criminals, this program is critical in showing our children a path to become contributing creative members of our communities.”

To support the internships, Los Angeles County, through its Arts Commission, has given grants totaling $250,000 to 74 arts organizations throughout the County.

“We know that the arts play an integral part in the Los Angeles community, and are honored to give our former foster youth a chance to learn valuable and meaningful life skills through this internship program,” said Shauna McClure, the executive director of Free Arts for Abused Children whose motto is “Arts Heal!”