Excel Arts Academy, Mrs. Shelomi Doran-Bakhuis

Interview May 2018

Excel Arts Academy, an example of Transformational Leadership
The vision of Excel Arts Academy is to: “Offer to children, youth and young adults an education so that they can discover and develop their life goals, their talents, character and skills to become excellent and exemplary citizens, that are able to actively be involved in the development of their society, as role models”.

We asked the founder of the movement Shelomi Doran-Bakhuis how it all started
The Excel Arts Academy movement was founded in Curaçao in 2000 and it became a foundation in 2006. Based on my own experiences as a child and student, as a young girl I was very shy and insecure and I didn’t excel in the more cognitive curriculum, but I did very well in arts, singing and dancing.

I was able to overcome my shyness and insecurities by expressing my creative talents, resulting in improved self-confidence and as a result of that, improved school grades. I concluded that the traditional educational system basically doesn’t enable students with artistic talents to develop their potential. Based on my own experiences, I became more and more determined to start my own Academy for children and youth with a more artistic profile and intelligence. This became my passion. My own experiences have proven to me, that if you can develop students whom are more talented in arts and culture, this can help them develop and increase their self-confidence, perform and achieve better grades at school and ultimately achieve more in life. They can then help others in their development”.

30 Graduates of the Excel Arts Academy, the biggest milestone yet
After a long journey of learning while we were teaching as the Academy, on the 13th of April we had our graduation ceremony of the first cohort of graduates of Excel Arts Academy. Almost 30 Youth Leaders who were relatively unknown to the public, graduated. Most of them work, or they are students in the educational sector and/or social sector or as teachers, or they are involved in social work, or they are social pedagogic counselors etc…but quite a few of them are “young entrepreneurs”, having their own creative businesses. These graduates participated or have guided different artistic, cultural, social and educational events, aimed at planting deep seeds in the heart and souls of people. Some of these leaders up to this day are investing time in Excel Arts Academy and others excel in the society as responsible employees, businessmen, creative parents and as role models in the society. The academy has contributed to create champions of change, pioneers that can lead in a creative way and according to high standards, any kind of organization, family, even a nation in the realization of their vision or whatever BIG goal they might have.

Excel Arts Academy More than Arts, It’s a lifestyle

We asked Shelomi about their new slogan: “Excel Arts Academy More than Arts, It’s a lifestyle”.
Their abilities and skills levels that were honed over the years, going through an intensive process of individual change, has made them bright shining torches, role models and examples for the whole of the society. This while Excel Academy as an organization itself was also learning along the way in this journey. We considered it appropriate and important, to give them a diploma, after all these years, and present them at the same time to the larger public of Curaçao. They not only finalized the curriculum successfully, but also showed their dedication and commitment to the larger vision of the Academy, to help a larger number of children, youth and young adults, by working consistently on their own continuous development, to make this possible”.

The next level of leadership development
During the graduation ceremony of the abovementioned first cohort of leaders that graduated, we launched the next level of leadership development phase called: “The Change Champions Leadership Academy”. Its aim is:

To bring their leadership skills to an even higher level”. CCLA just as “Excel Arts Academy” is a personal initiative and vision that I have. Its mission is: “To equip and transform leaders, youth and adults to enable them to live a life with high ethical standards and enable them to use their talents and skills to educate and equip others to become excellent and dignified citizens in our society”. Considering the high number of youth involved in crime, we would also like to focus on prevention towards so-called “At risk youth”.

We want to approach youth in certain neighborhoods and schools to be part of this new Academy. We will train more mentors and teachers/coaches so that we can address this matter in a more focused and professional way.

We recruit newbies from 3 – 5 years old; 6 – 12 years old and youth from 12 – 30 years old. We give presentations to the public in general, by spreading leaflets at schools and certain neighborhoods and via social media. We also get the parents involved in the artistic development of the students, in some cases as mentors, and as they experience the positive changes in their children, they share these stories as ambassadors with their family, friends, colleagues and others, because of the strong positive messages and influence Excel emits.

What is the strategy being used?

Art is an integral part of the daily life of youth and it plays an important role in the development of their own identity as a individual. It is part of the life of a “Yu di Kòrsou”. At the Academy, art as a curriculum is presented in a lively and experiential way. This triggers students as individuals to go and seek ways and means to experience arts and culture. Because the youth are very much into experimenting, arts and culture is an excellent way to help and support them in their own internal journey to develop their talents, to help to express their feelings and thoughts and to become aware of their emotions. The teachers and mentors of the Excel Arts Academy are very focused to enable students, based on a positive approach, to become aware of what they feel in themselves, how they interact with others social-emotionally; they are also focused on acquiring knowledge, skills and the right attitudes.

In this coming academic year we will focus again to close the gap in the development of the mental, social-emotional and physical development of those underprivileged children, youth and young adults, so that we increase their chances of becoming worthy citizens, able to participate fully in our society. We aim to reach at least 80 parents, foster parents, family members or people living in the neighborhoods attending our artistic shows and programs, that we will offer to certain neighborhoods. We will offer 3 times a year, presentations to a group of at least 20 parents, foster parents or family members to inform them and stimulate them to uplift their educational skills levels. Involvement of these groups is important, because of the need for sustainable development and support needed to learn new attitudes, values and norms, that students agreed to adapt as part of being in the Excel Arts Academy-program.

How important is it to create behavioral changes that stick?
My goal is to reach as much of people as possible to enable lifestyle changes so that they can gain better mastery over their lives and become better citizens. For these changes to be sustainable, I coach some of them “One-on-One”.

The curriculum of the Academy is based on core values that forms the foundation of their education and development. We teach the importance of having an exemplary life in all areas of their lives. Positive peer pressure and a family feeling among the students and we entice them to be exemplary role models. On a continuous basis, coaches and mentors have group meetings where, in and open and transparent way, they discuss with one another and support one another. This is happening for years now.

Our mentor program is based on peer mentoring & cross-age-mentoring. The program consists of 6 phases divided in 3 cycles. The student is being guided in different areas of their life and the mentor/guide walks one-on-one with the trainee/student. The Excel Arts Academy-program and method is based on experiential learning and “Art-therapy”. All the participants in the project via this method has the opportunity to learn from their own perspective, responsibility and authority aimed at realization of their personal development goals. At the end of each year, we have an event or play where all students of the Academy can participate. From April on, every class starts with their preparations for the event that this year will be on the 16th of June. This year it will be in collaboration with Hóben Òn. Regarding collaborations, we collaborate with different boarding schools and other organizations. We intend to, as of this year, expand our collaborations by working more focused and with an emphasis on prevention in some neighborhoods and schools in Curaçao.

Appeltje van Oranje award
Shelomi, we would like to congratulate you because Excell Arts Academy has just won a so-called “Appeltje van Oranje”-award. This is a very prestigious award for organizations in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We hope that you stay the course and keep leading Excel Arts Academy and the newly formed Change Champions Leadership Academy (CCLA) to new levels of depth and also expand your wings laterally, to transform growing numbers of leaders to influence our society in a positive way. As Share2Uplift we totally support your efforts and are totally aligned with your goals.

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