By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A free summer program for Baltimore City students is underway at eight locations in the city. It’s five weeks of hands on lessons combining arts, literacy and math. The Young Audiences Academy began this week, but is in its fourth year.

“What’s exciting about this summer is that we are serving twice as many kids as we did the year before. We have almost 2,200 kids participating. It’s a free five week program for students who attend title one schools.” Stacie Evans, president and CEO of Young Audiences said.

Teaching artists use poetry and music to teach literacy and math.

“It’s really about collaboration, about sharing ideas and growing and being innovative as an artist,” Femi the Dri Fish, a teaching artist at the Academy said. “It’s a joy. I get to learn from them and they get to learn from me and the math teacher in this classroom.”

The Young Audiences Academy has doubled in size this summer, going from four to eight locations.

“We’re getting incredible results. Our program is showing that we are mitigating summer learning loss, and what that means is our kids are going back to school better prepared.” Evans said.

Students say they are having fun learning during the summer.

“What I like the most is it really doesn’t feel like school,” Fentzy Philippe August, who is attending the camp, said. “It’s really fun, they have a good mix of the arts and the academics.”

Teaching artist Rashida Forman-Bey says she loves seeing young people having their creative skills awakened.

“It’s a great way to help heal our community, through the arts. So we should have the arts in every school all over Baltimore City and all over the world.” Forman-Bey said.

Some of the students attending the camp will have the chance to perform at Artscape the weekend of July 20. They’ll also go on another field trip to Sandy Point State Park this summer.

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