The Caroline Alexander Buck Foundation has awarded The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts an initial $100,000 grant to support the development and launch of a high school arts program and the creation of a rigorous, standards-based, K-12 arts-integrated curriculum at Chester Charter School for the Arts (“CCSA”).

The Chester Fund will receive another $100,000 in November 2015 contingent upon CCSA’s following through with its plans to develop the first arts-integrated high school in Delaware County and being able to sustain the program after receiving the second installment of the Buck Foundation grant. The Chester Fund’s Board Chair, Jay McEntee, comments, “The Caroline Alexander Buck Foundation is the first investor in the creation of a rigorous high school for Chester children. With the help of The Chester Fund’s incredibly committed community, I believe that this grant will be a catalyst for momentum with other funders who believe in our school. The start up costs of the curricular aspect of the high school arts program will total $300,000.”

The Chester Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization devoted exclusively to supporting CCSA’s mission of assisting children in Chester reach the highest levels of academic and artistic achievement. In 2012, The Chester Fund, led by former Swarthmore music professor Dr. John Alston, founded CCSA. Currently a K-8 school, CCSA’s mission is to prepare Chester children to employ their intellectual and creative abilities to enrich their community. CCSA is delivering on that promise.

In less than three years, CCSA has achieved the third-highest year-to-year improvement among 800 public and charter schools in the five-county Philadelphia region. On 2014 tests, CCSA experienced double-digit increases in the number of students scoring proficient or advanced in reading and math.

CCSA’s School Performance Profile was 20 points higher than Chester schools on average and 10 points higher than the next-highest performing school in the Chester Upland School District. CCSA was the only high performing school in the district.

Respected philanthropist Caroline A.B. Churchman established the Buck Foundation to help disadvantaged youngsters, among others. The Buck Foundation recognized The Chester Fund’s new high school and curriculum proposal as transformational based on CCSA’s strong academic outcomes, commitment to the arts and literacy, and plans for expansion.

When asked why CCSA is transformational, Principal/CEO Akosua Watts responded, “One of the fundamental differences between CCSA and other schools is the level of rigor that we invest in reading and in critical thinking. We use the arts and reading as tools to keep children incredibly engaged and motivated. Our scholars will continue to excel thanks to the incredible generosity of The Caroline Alexander Buck Foundation.”

Dr. Alston comments, “Building a great school is no small feat. Our commitment to the arts is unparalleled at a time when arts programs are the first to go in urban and suburban school districts. We are the only school with a full-time arts program in Delaware County, which includes visual arts, drama, dance, and music classes. Steadily, we are leveling the playing field.”

Students who have intensive exposure to the arts significantly outperform their peers on every measure. They have higher GPAs and SAT scores and are more likely to graduate from college. Mr. McEntee notes, “In Chester, where over 40% of children live below the poverty line, The Caroline Alexander Buck Foundation grant in support of CCSA will make a transformational impact that is measurable and sustainable.”

For more information on The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts or Chester Charter School for the Arts, please contact Hillary Sorin at (610) 605 7422 or hsorin@thechesterfund.org.

Chester Charter School for the Arts is an academically demanding, arts-enriched non-profit public school supported by The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts, a diverse community of individuals, businesses and foundations who believe that an arts-education is essential to a child’s intellectual, emotional and social development.

Photo: CCSA 7th grader, Rahshad Rawls, pictured in CCSA’s Dance Studio.

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