April 29, 2013/For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891, whitakerl@uncsa.edu




(Winston-Salem) Ten high school students from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) will spend a week of their summer vacation in Haiti, collaborating on art projects with children in a Port au Prince orphanage. The musicians, dancers and visual artists are completing the 10th, 11th and 12th grades, and have studied civics, economics and government with Jonathan Milner, who is leading the trip.

It will be Milner’s second trip to Haiti. He and his wife and son visited there in December as volunteers for Partners in Health (PIH), an international non-government organization that provides medical care in Haiti and other impoverished areas of the world.

“Before the 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, 25 disabled children languished, abandoned in a Port au Prince hospital,” Milner says. “Paint peeled from the walls. Water dripped from the ceiling. At night, orphans slept five to a crib. Those who were mobile where shackled to their metal beds. Most had never been outside.”

Most of the hospital was destroyed in the earthquake that killed a quarter of a million people. PIH stepped in and spirited the children away to Zanmi Beni, a refuge on the outskirts of Port au Prince.

When he visited Zanmi Beni with his family, Milner knew right away that the children would benefit by meeting the bright young artists that he taught every day, and that his students were hungry for ways to make a difference. “There is such a joy of art here at UNCSA,” he said. “Our students need to practice being artists, and they want hands-on experience with what we read about in class.”

Jill Lane, headmaster and dean of the high school academic program at UNCSA, says the project is a unique and important opportunity. “We want to create citizen artists who are aware of and engaged with the world around them,” she said. “This is a hands-on learning experience that will no doubt shape the lives of these young artists.”

The students say that while the trip is a first for UNCSA, it is a perfect fit. “As artists, it’s what we do anyway; we inspire people,” said Sean Mulligan, a viola player from Baltimore. “It’s a way to help people, to pay it forward.”

Rachel Norris, a clarinet player from Wake Forest, N.C., said she feels compelled to give back. As an in-state high school student, her tuition and fees are paid by state appropriations to the school. “I go to school here for free,” she said. “The things I have learned I want to pass along. I love kids and I love music, so I’m so excited by this opportunity.”

The teenagers expect to learn as much as they teach, and to get inspiration as much as they give it. “We’re very fortunate in this country,” Mulligan said. “Most of us have houses. We have food. Look at people who don’t have those things. They are still making music and art.”

Daniel Sims, a trombone player from New York City, said all cultures communicate through art. “Art is a language, and we will be learning their language and learning about their culture. And we will make art together.”

Sims is in charge of documenting the trip, through blogs, photographs and videos, so that more UNCSA students might be interested in service learning. “We hope there will be more trips, to different areas,” he said.

The trip is financed in part by a grant from the Semans Art Fund at UNCSA, a private foundation that funds opportunities for summer study, special projects, research, and performances. Established in 1977 by the late Dr. and Mrs. James H. Semans, the fund builds upon the resources of UNCSA in imaginative ways to aid and promote the students and faculty.

Additional funding will come from a benefit event at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Crawford Hall on the UNCSA campus. Run by the students who are making the trip, the event will include performances and a video presentation about Haiti and the orphanage.

“We want to create an awareness of the culture and the issues that people face,” Norris said.

That’s a goal their teacher applauds. “It’s important to put a face to what we read about in class,” Milner said. “Partners in Health believes that it is not enough to doctor a person; you have to take care of the whole person. Art is very healing. And so is service.”

The students have created a Facebook page dedicated to the project:  https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Global-Arts/326252840828503

Donations to help finance the project can also be made online at: https://uncsa.thankyou4caring.org/pages/donate (select “Other” and tell us how you would like to designate your gift). 


About Partners in Health

PIH was founded in 1987 to deliver health care to the residents of Haiti's mountainous Central Plateau region. In the 25 years since then, PIH has expanded in Haiti's Artibonite and Central Plateau regions, and launched additional projects around the world. Its mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair.


As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.