Over the 5 years of LEAF Schools & Streets programming with IRL (In Real Life) at Asheville Middle School, LEAF’s Resident Teaching Artists have developed strong bonds with students who return year after year to participate in their favorite creative art form after-school. This school year featured an all-star roster of youth in Hip Hop Dance, Theater and Circus Arts who could just not get enough.

After a sick day home from school, one of Otto Vazquez’s Hip Hop students did not want to miss the Breaking & Freestyle dance lesson at IRL, so she Skyped in from her living room to participate! 

If there is no class to Skype into, well then these middle schoolers will just demand that there be a class added! After IRL officially ended this Spring, Erinn Hartley’s Theater students showed up for an extra class ready to rehearse. The talk of that last class was how they’d convinced their parents to let them come. “One student had even stopped attending Asheville Middle School to be homeschooled because her mother is ill, but she had her grandfather bring her to and from the class,” Erinn shared. “It was clear that they had developed a comradery from working together this school year.” 

LEAF Teaching Artists are not just passing along their craft, but also their role model behavior. When a child is not participating in class, Otto will give them space and options, but always take the opportunity to lend a listening ear. On one occasion, an IRL student who was feeling down and distant confided in Otto about her quarrels at home, but after jumping into the lesson centered on confidence, she found her path forward passing on a note to Otto as she headed home for the day: 


LEAF Schools & Streets measures the results of the cultural arts education work through the Developmental Assets Profile Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.

The IMPACT | Positive Decision-Making: Adult Role Models help youth to make healthy choices in their lives, thus increasing their chances of having a successful future. Youth find their passion through leadership. Exposure to arts education via LEAF Schools & Streets Teaching Artists can help youth to connect with the arts on a deeper level. 88% of parents reported seeing positive changes in their child’s behavior as a result of LEAF Schools & Streets programming.

For more information on LEAF Schools & Streets, please email outreach@theLEAF.org