Students at Chase Elementary School take the stage for this group Summer Scholars Program Photo. Photos by Jessica Simone Photography

By Deonte’ M. Creasy

Herald Contributor

Cincinnati Public Schools had the exciting opportunity to provide its students with extended learning opportunities through the Summer Scholars Program, which ran from June 2-30.  

Each student was offered full day sessions that included both academic enrichment, social awareness, physical education, arts empowerment and recreational fun for students ranging from preschool to twelfth grades.  Each grade level had specific themes that aided students in the following areas: increasing reading fluency, comprehension, vocabulary and phonics awareness, along with providing intense science exploration, reaching state goals for mathematics, social studies, arts, and physical education curriculums specific to each grade level.  The academic program was balanced with social, and emotional components, which included fun physical activities, and individualized arts programs for each student in the afternoon component sponsored by the YMCA.   

The Summer Scholars program even offered intervention services meeting targeted learning objectives for students with Individual Education Programs (IEP), and those with special needs. 

Chase Elementary, one of Cincinnati Public’s Arts and Cultural Schools, was offered a special visiting artist program featuring the keynote speaker, KiKi Layne.  She is a native Cincinnatian, and graduate of the School for Creative and Performing Arts.  Along with this, she is an American actress, film star, and producer with noted roles in the romantic drama “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the drama “Native Son,” the superhero film, “The Old Guard,“ and the new romantic comedy “Coming 2 America 2.”  Some of her other acting credits include the following: “The Staggering Girl,” “ Captive State,” “The Lena Waithe Project,” “Chicago Med” and “Veracity.”     

Her talents also lead her to becoming a model in 2019 with The Kate Spade Brand in New York.  Needless to say, Kiki Layne’s career is nothing short of outstanding.

Actress Kiki Layne talks about the discipline needed to become successful during her presentation to Chase Elementary students.

Layne took an afternoon to interact with the students attending the Chase Elementary Summer Scholars Program by telling them her personal success story as a product of the Cincinnati Public School system.  During this workshop, Layne outlined her childhood interest, the importance she placed on high academic achievement, along with the process she took in perfecting her craft.     

She spoke of how she took her creative dreams and put them into action on a daily basis while in high school, and then moving on to receive a Bachelors in Fine Arts in Acting from DePaul University in Chicago in 2014.          

KiKI told the students to dream, and dream big.  Along with her dream, she took the students through a step by step process of the classes, jobs and rigorous academic programs she had to achieve in order to receive the acclaimed movie, stage and television roles she has acquired today.  

The students also were engaged in a question and answer session that allowed them to interact one-on-one with her, allowing her to speak about, and even demonstrate how art, drama, dance, and music are all key components in becoming a well acclaimed actress. She stressed the importance of academic excellence, expanding on one’s creativity and engaging in diversity, which now allows her to play many roles, without being type casted.  She directed each student to do create a clear vision statement, connect with the things they love to do, be diligent, study hard, strive for high achievement, be directed, listen well, perform with attention to details, stay true to yourself, be disciplined, have a great work ethic, and the ability to follow through.   

During this session, KiKi explained the importance of not being stuck based on income, family dynamics, or even if you become the first in your family to have a certain interest or talent that’s new to your personal environment.  She challenged the students to dream, as she did while watching her favorite film, “The Lion King.”

Kiki Layne interacts with students at Chase Elementary School.

You could catch her reenacting or creating stories from this with her Barbie dolls.  It was at the very young age of seven that she encouraged her parents to send her to the School for Creative and Performing Arts, where her professional training, learning, and life’s professional work began. and now she holds awards for being an outstanding actress in a motion picture from Black Reel, Best Screen Couple, for “If Behle Street Could Talk” from The Women’s Film Critics Circle, and was even nominated for a NAACP Image Award, just to name a few of her professional honors.

The specific program was a great collaboration of Cincinnati Public Schools, The YMCA Community Coordinating at Chase, Word Play, Jessica Simone Photography, The Guiding Light Mentoring Program, Chase School educators, and staff members, including various individual artist in residence who all contributed in making this summer a successful enrichment program for each student.  Special thanks goes to The Guiding Light Mentoring Program for bringing Layne to Chase.

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