YES Prep Public Schools
Jonathan Brown, Communications team

The Houston Rodeo School Art Competition is a highlight of the year for many schools in Houston, and YES Prep Southeast Elementary is no exception. This year, two of our students, Elijah Jefferson (first grade) and Matthew Andrade (second grade) submitted their artwork and won “Best In Show” and “Gold Medal” respectively. It's a tremendous accomplishment, and a Texas-sized amount of credit goes to the amazing art teacher at Southeast Elementary, Colleen Duke.

Sharing a common passion

Duke has been teaching art for over a decade and has been a valuable member of the YES Prep Southeast Elementary staff since 2020. Duke believes in the importance of visual arts in education, how it plays a critical role in student development, and how it helps children develop their creativity and problem-solving skills. During her time in the classroom, she has developed a unique teaching philosophy that places a strong emphasis on fostering a love of art in her students. Her passion for art is infectious, and our students are lucky to have her as their teacher.

Our 2023 Rodeo Art contest winners

This is the third year YES Prep has been a part of the Houston Rodeo School Art Competition and the first year that all six YES Prep elementary schools participated, opening the competition to students from pre-K through fourth grade.

Students at all six campuses created artwork for the competition centered around the theme of “Western Art.” Students chose whether they wanted to draw or paint, planned out and created their own original composition. Each school’s art teacher then narrowed down all the artwork to the school’s top ten pieces, which is a very difficult task to do with so many talented students. Once the finalist for each school was announced, they were submitted to the Rodeo judges to select the top two artworks.

Elijah & Matthew’s winning pieces

Elijah's winning artwork titled “A Day at the Rodeo” is a stunning portrait of himself and his mother on a farm, dressed up and holding up a pig that found its way back to the farm. Matthew's piece titled “This is Art” is a colorful and imaginative landscape that shows a cowboy, with his incredible skills, riding a bull in front of a barn. Both pieces were remarkable, and it's evident that these students have an incredible amount of talent.

March is Youth Art Month 

“I cannot imagine my own education without the arts, and it is my passion and mission to provide my students with quality art education.”

It's hard to overstate the significance of Youth Art Month, which takes place every March. This month is dedicated to celebrating the importance of art education and the incredible accomplishments of young artists around the world. It's a time to recognize the pivotal role that the visual arts play in shaping the minds and hearts of our youth.

The visual arts are a crucial part of education; they are a universal language and a powerful tool in the classroom. “I may not always speak the same language as my students, but we can draw and paint together,” said Duke. “There is no ‘right’ answer in art, so a student who may struggle in math or reading, can find a part of their day where they feel successful.” 

"Gold Medal" winner Matthew posing with his art piece at the Hayloft gallery during the Rodeo.

Gold Medal winner Matthew posing with his art piece at the Hayloft gallery during the Houston Rodeo.

There is joy in children when they are creating. Every day, Duke is thrilled to see their faces light up when she tells them they are painting or mixing colors. Or even building a paper sculpture! “I really do love my job as an art teacher because even after 12 years of teaching art, my students continue to surprise me with their creativity, artistic interpretations and perspectives. I cannot imagine my own education without the arts, and it is my passion and mission to provide my students with quality art education.”

At YES Prep, we're proud to be part of this celebration and for the work that Duke and our amazing students are doing to showcase the importance of the visual arts. We can't wait to see what they'll do next, and we're excited to support them every step of the way. And finally, congratulations to Elijah and Matthew, and to all our incredible SPARK artists out there--you inspire us every day.

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