HARLEM, Manhattan — When they were forced to close the organization on March 14 and suspend all in-person classes, Harlem School of the Arts immediately went to work.
The 56-year-old organization has managed to stay afloat, even though they have had to make hard decisions without hurting their students' abilities to continue to train and take classes virtually.
But there is no question that it has been hard when parents face economic hardships. The organization has continued to help students whose families have faced financial problems, through scholarships and financial aid.
Suki Scott is a vocal prep student studying classical music and musical theatre at HSA. She credits the school for allowing her the chance of doing what she loves, singing.
The 15-year-old opera singer from the Bronx balances weekend classes at LaGuardia High School and weekend classes at HSA. She says HSA has been a safe haven for her family throughout these difficult times both mentally and financially. Her Mom Julia is a retired NYC police officer.
"Suki has been in the prep program, which is a Meredith scholarship program with HSA, since she was 12 years old. I don’t know how I would’ve been able to afford all her music classes, vocal performances, private classes all the classes that HSA has offered," said Julia Scott.
"It’s just been keeping me afloat, practicing my music, keeping me well-oiled for college when the time comes up for me when the time comes for me to do my college auditions," Suki said.
Harlem School of the Arts President Eric Pryor says their mission is to help their students like Suki succeed at those auditions by putting them first, especially at a time of crisis.
"With Black and brown people being so disproportionately affected by COVID, so many of our young people and the parents are just craving for interaction," says Pryor.
HSA satisfies that crave by helping families who can’t afford lessons, even while facing economic hardship themselves. Fortunately, through Covid relief funding, the 56-year-old organization has managed to stay afloat.
While there’s no set date on when they’ll reopen, Pryor says the school is fully renovated and plans to follow COVID safety guidelines when they resume in person training.