MCCOY is reinstating our monthly Youth Champion spotlight. We will be shining a spotlight on a hard working Youth Development Professionals and the great work they and their organizations do.
This month Andrew Lee, Executive Director of Art With a Heart, has been chosen as the Youth Champion! Founded in 2002, Art With a Heart is a nonprofit dedicated to providing at risk youth with the opportunity to express themselves through art. The programs offered include lessons that meet state-mandated educational standards and cultivate critical thinking skills. Check out the interview below to learn more about Mr. Lee and the organization:
I’ve always been in what I would call ‘mission-driven’ jobs. Money is a means to an end for me and I’ve never been very excited about amassing it except in the context of furthering a good cause. What sold me on Art With a Heart were the stories Carol (our founder and my predecessor) told me about the development and success of the students.
Chaotic, unproductive, overwhelming. I’m not an artist, or an educator and this was my first proper ED position – I think some people were wondering what I was doing there. I may have been one of them! I think I made one good decision in the first week which was to outsource our IT management, that put half a day back into my week and eliminated a lot of headaches for staff.
Seeing students confidence and ability grow is the pinnacle of the work, but this isn’t the kind of job where every day can be a roaring success so its important to like your working environment and I’ve never had a team that I’ve enjoyed working with more than my current staff. The focus, commitment and capability all combine to make a highly effective unit. We debate each other well, we always interview new staff together, we understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we support each other. It’s a very demanding job but it’s a very congenial and supportive environment.
MCCOY’s strategic perspective and convening power are the two things that make the greatest impact from my perspective. MCCOY convened the enrichment providers who serve Summer Youth Program Fund for what was a really useful discussion and they’ve led initiatives like Early Intervention and Prevention – the Race for Resources event that came out of that remains one of the most effective ways that we meet new clients and partners.
Our goal is that 5 years from now we have dramatically improved the perceived value of art among students, parents, teachers and schools and as a community we rely on it as an equal part of the curriculum for our children’s success. For my own future, I have no idea, I love being part of this organization and I do feel that after five years here I have a much more enlightened sense of how we contribute to the bigger picture, but at some point the job will require a different set of skills than I possess. I’ve supported Paws & Think for a long time, Daisy (the dog) and I volunteer in their programs and I’ve always thought of that as an organization I’d like to be more involved with. Right now though – Art With a Heart has a $50,000 matching challenge from the Glick Fund to work on so I’ve got plenty still to do here!