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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Indiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

United states attorney’s office partners with IPS school on after-school art project

Smart on Crime project with 6th-7th grade girls at Daniel Webster Elementary fosters positive relationships and improved confidence

Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh Minkler today announced an unprecedented art project partnering young girls from Daniel Webster Elementary School #46 (DWES) with lawyers, administrative professionals and paralegals of the United States Attorney’s Office.  The two-month after-school mentoring art project featured self-portraits of 6th and 7th grade students and was intended to address issues of self-worth, confidence and self-esteem.

“Building positive relationships with Daniel Webster’s students can only increase the community trust between those of us in law enforcement and the citizens of this city that we serve and protect,” said Minkler.  “Daniel Webster’s students have so much to offer this community.  They just needed some mentorship and an opportunity to create a remarkable piece of art that benefits their school and their community.  Creating such a legacy improves us all.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office partnered with Holly and David Combs, co-founders of The Department of Public Words in partnership with Art With a Heart to facilitate the program.  The eight week after-school class included a confidence building self-portrait drawing workshop with 23 6th and 7th grade girls at DWES.  Minkler and members of his staff at the U.S. Attorney's Office participated by mentoring and encouraging the students throughout the process.

The self-portraits created by the students will be featured in a large mural that will permanently adorn the main entryway to the school.  The after-school workshops encouraged the girls to reject inappropriate labels, increase their self-respect and their respect for others.  The mural, entitled, “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” will serve as a legacy to remind participants and everyone entering the school of the important lessons learned during the eight-week project.

According to administrators at DWES, many female students at the school between the ages of 11 and 14 struggle with issues of self-worth, confidence and self-esteem.  Within this group, the administration is starting to see a higher number of teenage pregnancies, cyber bullying incidents and poor educational outcomes.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this behavioral trend is a pipeline to an increased likelihood of low attachment to and performance in school, a life-cycle of poverty and homelessness, a diminished self-worth and an increased likelihood of criminal behavior.

"It's an honor to work with these young ladies, “said Holly Combs. “During these experiences, my goal is always to grow the students but I am profoundly surprised by how much the experience grows me."

“This partnership has truly been a gift,” said Daniel Webster Principal Karen Linn. “What makes it so powerful is that our girls are forming relationships with successful professionals who in sharing their own experiences are planting seeds of success.  The wonderful DOJ volunteers and artists have helped our girls see that they too can become successful and are truly valuable and capable of doing great things with their lives.”​

Updated June 7, 2016