The NYCDOE Community School District 6 office presented the 4th Annual UNITED @ THE PALACE arts showcase at the United Palace in Washington Heights, NY on May 25th. According to Community School District 6, the district held a student wide arts showcase that serves as a platform to amplify young people’s voices by displaying the talents of the students in the Northern Manhattan community.

Comprised of 40 schools in Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood; District 6 has approximately 18,000 Pre-K through 12th grade students. This year’s UNITED @ THE PALACE showcase included 21 diverse acts (including pre-show performances) of children and teens from the district’s schools representing grades K-12.

This UNITED @ THE PALACE arts showcase is “an opportunity that we are creating as a district to put arts back in schools,” stated District 6 Superintendent Manuel Ramirez. Over 3,000 people were expected to attend the event, claimed Mr. Ramirez.

When asked why arts are important to the Washington Heights community, Mr. Ramirez said he has confidence that the arts will enhance the students’ “academic performance, teamwork, moral skills and their perseverance and focus.”

Zulaika Velazquez, the Artistic Director of GWEC, believes students who are engaged in the arts are able to “stretch their minds beyond the boundaries of the printed text or the rules of what is provable.”

Confirming Mr. Ramirez’ and Ms.Velazquez’ words, before the show begun the young people acted upon the responsibility of entertaining 3,000 plus people. In each school’s group, students demonstrated a great amount of leadership and commitment as they practiced. They communicated to each other through the frustrations of being in such a big production. Ana Made, a junior at the High School for Media and Communications and volunteer working backstage, described the children, as “dependable because they knew what to do on stage and off stage.”

Once the doors of the palace were open, hundreds of guests consisting of parents, friends, teachers, school leaders, and elected officials Senator Marisol Alcantara, Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez attended the event.

From beginning to end, the audience was amazed and in awe. The acts consisted of singing, dancing, poetry, cheerleading, instrumental music and amazing remakes of film and popular pop songs. Students of all ages passionately danced and sang across the stage. Some students did stunts that made the crowd scream with delight and others used art to teach the audience of the importance of different cultures.

“Our student performers and group leaders did a spectacular job and delivered on high expectations with a seamless run of show,” stated District 6 Family Support Coordinator Cimary Hernandez.

Ms. Hernandez shared that the main directors of the event were herself, Ms.Velazquez, Community Education Council (CEC) 6 Administrative Assistant  Porfirio Figueroa, and Superintendent Manuel Ramirez.

In addition to the performances, awards were also given out to the finalists of the UNITED @ THE PALACE art competition and the NYCDOE Big Apple Award. Henry Whopschall, an 8th grader who attends P.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs, won 1st place in the district wide art competition. Ms. Raya Sam, a math teacher at the Hamilton Grange Middle School, won the Big Apple Award.

Throughout the event many people praised how great the show was and how proud they were; including Assistant Principal and district 6 parent Emel Topbas-Mejia. “It was a magical event and seeing the talents of our young people brings our community great pride,” shared Ms. Topbas-Mejia.

The arts provide a way for students to express themselves freely in our northern Manhattan community. This event will create a chain reaction throughout the community as more students become interested in the arts.