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Students learn value of art while improving mental health

By Andrea Williams,


Walgreens—a company dedicated to helping people get, stay and live well—is proud to help students find their authentic voice on sensitive issues through their Expressions Challenge Initiative.

Kris Lathan is the Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at Walgreens. "Art is therapeutic," she said.

What started in 2009 in two cities is now open to high school students from all 50 states. TMJ4's Andrea Williams traveled to Milwaukee's Rufus King High School to speak with a couple of International Baccalaureate Art students interested in the challenge. Padriac Holman is a senior at King.

"I think the aspect of how wide of a scope it is, the fact there's not many chances for an artist that you kind of get to see your work get appraised and on such a large scale," said Holman.

"If a child or a teenager, in particular, is grappling with something, we want to give them an opportunity to get it off their chest to express themselves through art," said Kris Lathan.

The website Teen Health 101 explains that art is a source of enjoyment and inspiration, but it can also be a way to treat and heal mental health issues, as well as help young people express complex emotions and thoughts in a visual way, and provide comfort, meaning, and a connection to life.

"I don't need a plan, but just sitting down there with paper, a pencil and just beginning to make something that kind of helps me work through my own thought process," said Holman.

Sophia Muller is also a senior at King and says that art serves as an outlet for her and many of her classmates.

"Definitely like mental health issues and a lot of like the city we live in, like there's just a lot of segregation and definitely prejudice that a lot of people deal with," said Muller.

She also thinks the prize money makes this challenge even more exciting.

"It would be great, it's a lot of money and I'm a senior, so I'm going into college so that amount of money would definitely make a difference," said Muller.

Dean Graf is one of three art teachers at Rufus King. He has encouraged his students in the past and again this year to enter this nationwide challenge.

"I think it's a great challenge. I think the importance of it gives the students a pathway to address their anxieties, their issues, their concerns," said Graf.

Submissions for the Expressions Challenge end on March 31, so there's still plenty of time to get into the contest.

"If there's something that a child has already done, put it in the program. You can't win if you're not in it, so get in it!" said Lathan.

For more information, head to their website.

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