WJBF EXTRA: Jessye Norman School Of The Arts To Benefit From Sin - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

WJBF EXTRA: Jessye Norman School Of The Arts To Benefit From Singer's Visit Home

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By Randy Key

They come by the bus loads to the Jessye Norman School of the Arts at the corner of Seventh Street and Greene Street, in downtown Augusta.

Inside, they hit the books at these homework tables.

"If they need additional homework past that point, I set them up with an individual tutor who helps them once a week," says Janine Al-Asheer, who is the school's academic supervisor.

That help...really works...

"We had improved academic scores in every area last year and the same thing with CRCT. These scores are ahead of their peers," says Dr. Linda Scales, of the Rachel Longstreet Foundation.

Dr. Scales is on the board of the Rachel Longstreet Foundation, the non-profit that started the school in 2003.

It is here that economically disadvantaged kids get free, professional instruction in dance, drama, music visual arts, and creative writing.

"I like to dance it really gives me the opportunity to work on my dance," student Elisha Walker tells us.

"I enjoy the music, I enjoy the art. I just like the people that's in it," says student Brian Long.

"It inspires me to do what I can do and not what I think I cannot do. I can do anything imaginable," says student Asasia McDonald.

Imagine this space with walls, a conference room, a computer lab and art studio. That's the plan...

"We were given a wonderful building and we're at capacity with 80 students and are trying to reach as many students as we can," says the school's vice president of operations, Carolyn Dolen.

Students must audition to get into the program.

"We're looking for raw talent," says Michael Ray, who is the school's executive director. "We want a student who's focused and serious, and well behaved, but also that knows how to have a good time and have fun," he adds.

And from what these kids tell me, the Jessye Norman School of the Arts is fun plus a whole lot more.

"The children need the arts. Jessye once said 'To find yourself in the arts is to find your soul'," says Dr. Scales.

A fundraiser in support of the programs and expansion at Jessye Norman School of the Arts will be held this weekend. It is called "An Evening at the Opera", and will be hosted by the legendary opera singer from Augusta that the school is named for...Jessye Norman, herself. The event will take place at the Augusta State University Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre on Sunday, November 11th starting at 5:00 p.m. Click here for more information on the event.

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