Partner Spotlight: Investing in Access

COF23 group photo

This piece was featured in the 2019 Community Impact Report. 

“Graduate Tacoma access funds have helped support the Tacoma Arts Live Cultural Arts Program since 2016, which provides arts-based expanded learning opportunities, through Ballet Folklorico and World Drumming. We started with an arts-integrated summer program at Roosevelt Elementary five years ago, and it has grown into year-round services with performance opportunities at the elementary, middle, and high school levels on the Eastside.

We focus on three levels of accessibility: geographic, economic, and cultural/linguistic. What we’re interested in is creating a seamless experience for students in a part of the city that needs more resources to fully develop the potential of students in those neighborhoods.  

With Ballet Folklorico we’ve really hit all three access areas – geographically on the Eastside, economically serving low-income neighborhoods, and culturally relevant to both Latinx and non-Latinx. We’ve watched this become another opportunity for leadership and social-emotional growth.

Demand for programs are higher than what we can provide. Two more Elementary schools want the program now. Our Ballet Folklorico teacher works five days a week, and we’re pleased to be adding a second teacher. Drumming is also offered at four different elementary sites. One of the reasons the program is growing is it fosters genuine connection with students and is also extremely resonant with parents.

Graduate Tacoma Access Funds were the original seed, the catalyst that allowed this to happen that first year. Launch of the broader Tacoma Whole Child Initiative (TWCI) has been essential in expanding to the South End.  Strong partnership with Tacoma Public Schools, Graduate Tacoma, the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and the YMCA have made this possible

Arts-based programs play a unique role in challenging students to integrate skills across disciplines. To participate in the arts is like living out a word problem. Students are pulling on language-based learning, mathematical and spatial learning, and critical thinking while working with others.”


Tony Gomez is the Education Manager at Tacoma Arts Live, which hosts Cultural Arts and Arts-Integrated Summer Programs.