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JAMES LYNG HIGH SCHOOL ADOPTS AN URBAN ARTS FOCUS - Prominent graduate Marina Orsini ready to lend a hand.

MONTREAL, JANUARY 24,  2014 –James Lyng High School in St. Henri announced today that it is embracing a new urban arts component to its extra-curricular activities while welcoming back Quebec television, film and radio star Marina Orsini as a student mentor.

Ms. Orsini is a graduate of James Lyng High School, where she proudly enjoyed her acting debut as Marty in the production of Grease. “Many years later I performed Grease in French on stage and I played Rizzo,” she recalls. “I grew up in a bilingual home in Ville Émard and I am so proud to have attended James Lyng. Now I have an opportunity to give something back.”

Ms. Orsini, who presently hosts her own program on French-language radio station Rouge FM, is perhaps best known for her role as Suzie Lambert on the long running television drama Lance et Compte.  She has also starred in such projects as Les Filles de Caleb, Dr. Lucille and The Last Chapter.    


James Lyng High School Principal Angela Vaudry says she is thrilled to have Ms. Orsini as a resource. “Marina Orsini is a tremendous role model for our students,” she said. “I am looking forward to have her meet with our drama students in particular.”

As for the urban arts component of the school, Ms. Vaudry explains:  “We are partnering with McGill University. They have applied for a grant to help us investigate how to incorporate Urban Arts philosophies into our curriculum, via pilot projects in certain classrooms during the 2014-2015 school year. We will be assessing next year whether we should formally undertake the process of rebranding our school.”

Added Mikaella Goldsmith, the coordinator of the Community Learning Centre (CLC) at James Lyng High:  “Art is everywhere here. We are using art to try and bridge the gap between the school and the community, so that these kids can go out there and show off these wonderful things that they’re doing and be proud of themselves.”

Ms. Goldsmith, who joined James Lyng’s CLC last August and worked with Leave Out Violence (LOVE) for seven years, has made it her mission to deliver arts programs from the school to the community at large by building partnerships within the southwest Montreal and Verdun communities.   


One of those programs is a graffiti and street arts after school program that’s being done in collaboration with the YMCA in Pointe St. Charles. “The idea behind this program is that street art is not permanent, so the students get the chance to create some random, beautiful pieces that are done with chalk, yarn, tape and even post it notes,” said Ms. Goldsmith.

Melissa Proietti, coordinator of teen programs at the Point St. Charles YMCA, noted the artistic and community merits the program has on the students who participate in it. For example, many of them have participated in clean up campaigns in several surrounding neighbourhoods, as well as volunteer with Under Pressure, one of the largest and longest running graffiti/street art festivals in the world. As a result, such involvement helps them to make a positive impact in their community, as well as prove how committed they are to become responsible citizens.

“These experiences have taught these students not only what it means to develop successful traits for artistic work, but also the importance of being active participants in their communities,” she said. “We believe that giving back to our community of youth is the only way to sustain the kind of citizenship values mentioned.”

Another recent artistic project at James Lyng that combined creativity with community was a project that involved donated pairs of jeans, and how it helped to create awareness about bullying. Held during National Bullying Awareness Week, the students and their community partners collected many pairs of jeans, which they used as a canvas to decorate with messages about standing up to bullying.  The decorated denim was then hung on display at a community breakfast, where students and members of the community were able to view the creative anti-bullying messages in a friendly, social atmosphere.

“It was a nice initiative that got students aware about bullying, as well as creatively expressing the message,” said Ms. Goldsmith.


 Other arts related programs that are being offered to students at James Lyng include a music program (including orchestra and choir) that runs three days a week; a weekly Hip Hop dance program run by professional Hip Hop dancer Leah McFly, in which participating students get the chance to perform at different events across the community; a Hip Hop literacy program that teaches writing, spelling and composition through creating original Hip Hop songs; a dance program, in which its student members   participated in a recent Christmas toy drive with Montreal Community Cares; a weekly radio program that is run under the direction of veteran Montreal broadcaster Sharman Yarnell; and a supervised lunchtime art club, where students use their lunch hour to work on their own unique art pieces of different genres and media.

Ms. Goldsmith is proud of the fact that the arts programs being offered at James Lyng are helping many of its students thrive both creatively and academically.

“There are so many programs that the youth can sign up for. It allows them to be individuals, to have fun and enjoy coming to school,” she said. “As a result, the kids have a positive association with school, as well as enjoy the community atmosphere. They also do better in their grades and are less likely to skip school. It’s important to have our students as engaged as possible.”

James Lyng High School is located in St. Henri. Its student population originates from St. Henri and the nearby districts of the southwest sector of Montreal, in particular Little Burgundy, Point St. Charles, Ville Émard, Cote St. Paul, lower NDG and Verdun. In 2010-2011, about 44 percent of the student population were “at risk” students. James Lyng High School and its CLC have initiated several programs, and partnered with a number of community organizations and agencies to help realize the school’s goals of youth health and safety, student success and family support. Along with the Point St. Charles YMCA, they include Youth Fusion, McGill University, Burgundy Urban Mediation Project (BUMP), Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi, Leave Out Violence and Saint Columba House.


Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213