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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Arts let students 'escape for a day'

The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History is using a “magic” bus to inspire poverty-level children by giving them a chance to escape their environment for a day.

Rita Butler, the program manager at the museum, said this is the 20th year of the Magic Bus Program, which is funded by the community and private donations.

“The program brings school children to the museum, totally free,” she said. “We pay for the bus, we pay the admission fees, we totally pay for the whole education curriculum that the kids receive.”

The tour of the museum is either history- or art-based, depending on what the students are learning in the classroom, she said.

“We try to give them a mind eraser from where they woke up that morning,” Butler said. “The teachers want to show the students that there is more out there for them and that they can reach for higher goals … The program helps the students forget their problems for a day.”

The program was started by young philanthropists who wanted to offer students the opportunity to see Albuquerque museums without taxing the school systems, which already has challenges with such things, she said.

This helps set the tone for the day and allows them to enjoy the tour carefree, she said.

Mique Broome, one of 20 resource teachers for the APS’s poverty-level students, said she helps keep students who have economic struggles in school.

“I go every week and visit my schools and network with the contact people at my school, counselors and nurses, and find out if there are students that they think might qualify for our program,” Broome said. “Last year we had about 6,000 students that were qualified.”

Broome and the committee have to verify the kids’ living situations and ensure that they are within the parameters set by the Federal law, she said. Some families live in their cars, at hotels, shelters, or are displaced and living with relatives.

“We help them enroll in school,” Broome said. “Oftentimes schools won’t allow them to enroll because they don’t have the paperwork that is needed, like residency. They can’t bring in a gas bill. They don’t own a home so they can’t prove that they are in the boundaries of the school.”

If they need a uniform or school supplies, then the Title One committee helps them obtain those, she said. The Magic Bus Program has been a benefit for APS and its students.

Carol Lopez, who oversees the tours at Casa San Ysidro in Corrales, said last year they gave over 1,000 tours to students from the Magic Bus Program.

“It takes dozens of individuals, staff and volunteers for the Magic Bus Program,” Lopez said.

The museum is unique because it is in the village of Corrales, an agricultural community, she said.

“Just being exposed to a rural and agricultural place is really important for these students,” Lopez said. “They start to develop an idea of where the food comes from and that people live different ways, and that’s really important for a 3rd grader to know, for instance.”

The museum also focuses on several different artists, from how people made a living during Spanish Colonial and the early Mexican era with wool to modern artists, she said.

“The students have a chance to see the historical weaving, and then they have a chance to learn a little bit about a present-day person,” said Lopez.

The students are able to experience their classroom curriculum in person and interact with it as well, she said.

Moriah Carty is a freelance writer for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @MoriahCarty.