Sept. 10-16 is National Arts in Education Week, and we have much to celebrate here in Waterville. In addition to wonderful, dedicated public school arts educators, we also have numerous arts education opportunities, many of which are free, at places like Common Street Arts, the Waterville Public Library, the Waterville Opera House, the Maine Film Center, the Colby College Museum of Art, Snow Pond Center for the Arts, and the Alfond Youth Center.

Decades of research have shown that the arts are an essential part of a complete education, no matter if it happens in the home, school or the community. Students who participate in the arts are more likely to be civically engaged than their peers who did not have arts education, meaning they are more likely to vote, more likely to volunteer in their community, and more likely to sit on the board of a nonprofit organization as an adult. They are also more likely to possess the qualities of creativity and innovation that business leaders are seeking in their employees.

If the goals of our education system are to prepare students for the 21st century workforce, to encourage them to be engaged citizens, and to inspire a love of learning and exploration, arts education should be a vital component of all students’ lives.

I am proud to live in a community that values the arts, and I thank all of the individual educators and leaders who work every day to change lives and inspire our community through arts education.

Shannon Haines is president and CEO of Waterville Creates!

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