NBC's new hit musical drama "Rise" highlights the power a theater program can have on a high school, and it is an impact the students at Boston Arts Academy say they experience every day.
Boston Arts Academy is the city's only public high school for the visual and performing arts. The school is academically blind, meaning students do not have to have certain grades to get in, but they do have to audition. It is a creative outlet for 465 students who may not otherwise have one.
"It's not like your typical high school," Malik Mitchell, a junior, said. "It really gives me a way of expressing myself and I feel like that's really important for a kid like me."
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The see the importance of the arts daily and are thrilled to now see it featured in primetime. "Rise" tells the story of a drama teacher trying to save a struggling theater program by encouraging students to put their issues aside and put on a show. It is what the students at Boston Arts Academy say they do every time they walk into their theater class.
"It brings you into an environment where everybody's equal together and making a powerful piece that has a message to it," junior Janine Mendes said.
In "Rise," there is pushback when the drama teacher chooses a show that takes on tough topics. At Boston Arts Academy, they know those productions can be the most powerful.
Motivated by the #MeToo movement this year, all-female playwrights are putting on productions that cover everything from rape to race relations.
"We really try to choose material that's going to challenge them," Theater Department Chair Juanita Rodrigues said. "We cover themes they have to grapple with as young men and young women."
While there are still plenty of episodes to go for the students on the show, students at Boston Arts Academy say you do not have to go further than the hallways at their school to see the positive impact the arts can have.
"I just feel released from all my heavy burdens," junior Jaleel Sanders said. "I just feel like I'm free now."