Return to Headlines

Willard Intermediate performs in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center's Turnaround Arts Talent Show

Santa Ana, CA (March 12, 2018) — Students from Willard Intermediate School (Santa Ana Unified School District), a Turnaround Arts: California partner school, joined peers from across the country in the Turnaround Arts Talent Show held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, March 11. The Talent Show showcased the power of the arts and music to engage students and fuel school change efforts in historically disadvantaged communities.

Willard Intermediate School’s Dance Team performs “Build You Up” in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater for the 2018 Turnaround Arts Talent Show. 

Willard Intermediate School’s Dance Team shared a powerful, anti-bullying message on a national stage using dance and spoken word. In collaboration with the student dancers, this piece was choreographed

by Irishia Hubbard, who teaches dance at Willard Intermediate School through a partnership with Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center. The dancers were accompanied by 8th grade student Jayro Ortez, a self-taught piano prodigy who won last year’s first annual Willard’s Got Talent show, hosted by the school’s Turnaround Artist mentor Nigel Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol). Video of the student performance is available at

“This has been an amazing opportunity for our students. To travel all the way from Santa Ana to our nation’s capital to perform before a national audience is an experience of a lifetime, shared Dr. Stefanie Phillips, Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District.

“My students made beautiful memories that will last a lifetime and continue to build self esteem and perseverance for years to come,” said Amy Scruton, Principal of Willard Intermediate School.

Turnaround Arts: California was co-founded in 2014 by renowned architect Frank Gehry and arts education advocate Malissa Shriver to administer the Turnaround Arts program statewide.

"Seeing the strength and creativity in our Turnaround Arts: California students gives me hope for our future and fuels my own inspiration," said Frank Gehry.

“Witnessing our students overcome obstacles and find their authentic voices as creators and scholars humbles me and convinces me that no achievement gaps exist where opportunity lives,” shared Malissa Shriver, Executive Director of Turnaround Arts: California.

Willard Intermediate School’s participation in this event was generously sponsored by Elizabeth Segerstrom and Ruth Ann Moriarty. Moriarty, the Segerstrom Family matriarch, along with the late Henry T. Segerstrom and other family members are alumni of Willard Intermediate School.

"When first introduced to Turnaround Arts: California as a donor, I was excited and didn't know what to expect. Never could I have envisaged the transformational effect this inspiring and impactful program has had on so many American students. I've watched with awe as these children have blossomed and excelled to inhabit their true potential as our future leaders in the arts. The power of Turnaround Arts to fundamentally change the way students learn, grow, and excel cannot be overstated -- it's been the joy and privilege of my life to be to be involved and witness lives changed, first hand. First America, then the world!" said Elizabeth Segerstrom.

Since joining the Turnaround Arts program, Willard Intermediate School has made great strides: schoolwide implementation of Visual Thinking Strategies has translated to measurable increases in the quality of student writing; a recent assessment found that all students met or exceeded projected growth in reading, with 8th grade students almost tripling projected growth; to expand access to the arts, the school created a “zero period” giving students additional elective opportunities, especially for English language learners and students with special needs; and strategic, shared staffing across schools has built pathways for students to succeed in high school arts programs.

Turnaround Arts, a national education program run by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, empowers struggling schools with innovative arts, dance, theater, and music programs, arts-based learning across subject areas, arts resources, musical instruments, and high-profile artist mentors, as a strategy to help address broader

school challenges and close the achievement gap. Currently, there are 17 Turnaround Arts partner schools in California, and 73 schools nationwide.

Initiated with financial support from Berta and Frank Gehry and the California Arts Council, Turnaround Arts: California is supported by the Herb Alpert Foundation, the Eisner Foundation, Facebook, Jane Fonda, the Goldhirsh Foundation, David Hockney, MasterClass, the Rosenthal Family Foundation, Elizabeth Segerstrom, the Segerstrom Family Foundation, and Susan Steinhauser and Daniel Greenberg. Turnaround Arts: California partners regionally across the state with Collaborations: Teachers and Artists (CoTA), Liz Harvey, North Coast Arts Integration Project, Orange County Department of Education, P.S. ARTS, and Sunset Cultural Center to deepen program implementation and impact.

Turnaround Arts: California Media Contact: Jacob Campbell,, 805.471.6429