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Pomona High School program builds artists

The schools arts and humanities program started 15 years ago


D’Naya Stone, 16, found her love of the arts by accident. She was placed in a pottery class at Pomona High School — one she didn’t want to be in. But by the end of the first week, she was hooked.

Now the is one of almost 200 students in the Pomona Arts and Humanities (PAH) program, an integrated learning environment that engages the creative talents of young artists, their critical thinking abilities, and their ambitions for learning at the highest possible levels in a diverse environment. The program takes artistic expression and weaves it throughout academic classes to challenge creativity and academics.

Students in the program choose areas of focus including theater, instrumental music, vocal music, visual arts, writing, fashion design, interior design and culinary arts.

From there, they will receive intensive instruction to increase their artistic achievement and develop a lifelong love of the arts. In PAH English and social studies classes, teachers collaborate across curricular areas to produce creative, rigorous lessons in an arts context that broaden students’ understanding of both academic content and their world. The program culminates with a senior capstone that showcases the artistic talents and academic achievement of the PAH students.

As a visual arts student with a focus on ceramics, Stone uses what she learns in chemistry to be a better artist. “I make glazes for my pottery,” she said. “A lot of the things we learn in chemistry, I use in art, so I know what chemicals are OK to mix and which aren’t. It’s actually making me a lot more creative in my other classes.”

According to Jesse Collett, theater teacher at Pomona, that’s what the Pomona Arts and Humanities program is all about.

“Every arts class runs like an academic. We still teach college and career readiness skills and it’s pretty rigorous,” Collett said, pointing out that PAH students are one of the few groups in Jefferson County who beat all four readiness standards on the ACT. On the 2017 SAT, arts and humanities students at Pomona High scored above average for Jeffco, State and college readiness in all three academic areas.

Collett has been teaching at Pomona for three years, but he has been part of the arts program for much longer. As a high school student, Collett chose to audition for PAH and spent all four years of his high school education in the program. After receiving degrees in musical theater and theater education, Collett came back to his alma mater to help bring that experience to others.

“The PAH program is really what skyrocketed me into theater because I was doing it all the time in all my core classes,” Collett said. “I was able to take what I learned when I read the book and turn it into this incredible experience. Now, being back here as a teacher, it’s cool seeing the lens of how teachers we turn the content into the experience.”

North Arvada Middle School eighth-grader Beth Anderson, 13, draws and plays the violin. She hopes to find a home in Pomona’s arts and humanities program next year.

“I really have heard a lot of great things about Pomona and the art integrated program,” Anderson said after listening to a presentation from teachers the evening of Nov. 6. “I’ve always been interested in art and self expression so I thought this would be a fun thing to look into.”


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