“My self esteem has definitely gotten higher since I’ve been in the program,” says 12-year-old Kathleen Cadieux.

The program she’s speaking about is Arts After School Kids, Inc. (AASK). This local, not-for-profit organization allows students aged 11 to 14 to learn about music, drama, art and dance in order to help build self-esteem, social skills and confidence.

“These are ways to teach our youth skills that are transferrable,” says Chairperson Cory Judson at last week’s meeting. They’re not just learning about music and the arts, they’re learning how to come together in cooperation and they’re learning to be productive and proactive.”

Irena Zenewych has been working as the visual arts instructor for the past year and sees how the program has positively impacted the kids and her.

“The work is not evaluated,” says Zenewych. “We have a topic and they learn skills and techniques, but what they draw, paint or sculpt is all up to them. It’s really interesting, because there’s a lot of individual style that comes out. We learn from each other.”

With the new season of the program starting on October 5, focus is being placed on fundraising and volunteer support.

Program coordinator and creator Gayle Myke sees a relationship between Laurier and AASK as a cornerstone for the program’s success.

“I would love to develop an annual fundraiser between Laurier and AASK so they’ve got that local connection,” she says.

For now, Myke is looking for students and local community members to get involved any way they can. The facility is a less than five minute drive from campus, and they’re currently looking for volunteers to assist with fundraising and the art and music sessions.

Interested students can contact Gayle Myke at: aask@execulink.com or 519-759-3369.