The beginning  of a new school year means a fresh start for art students at three high schools in Faulkner County.  

On the first day of school, art teachers from three counties, including Faulkner County, arrived at Greenbrier High School to receive a bundle of art supplies donated by THEA Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates the importance of art education in the academic and social development of children. A $29,000 donation from Chesapeake Energy purchased the supplies.

"Art education is critical to the development and confidence of our youth, and these art supplies are the teacher’s tools to help their students dream and feel good about themselves," said Paul Leopoulos, executive director and co-founder of the THEA Foundation. "Unfortunately, school districts are required to make tough choices when allocating funds and, oftentimes, art programs and other worthwhile academic endeavors are adversely affected."

In all, 19 public high schools in Faulkner, Cleburne, Conway, Van Buren and White counties received a year’s worth of supplies. The three high schools in Faulkner County include Greenbrier, Guy-Perkins and Mount Vernon-Enola.   

"Because of Chesapeake’s generosity, the high schools in Faulkner County now have the resources to help students achieve more in the classroom and in life," Leopoulos said.

Recent studies indicate that students who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, four times more likely to participate in math and science fairs and three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.

"Chesapeake is proud to partner with THEA Foundation to provide these much-needed supplies to local art teachers," said Danny Games, director of corporate development for Chesapeake in Arkansas. "A quality, well-rounded education today helps to develop a productive and successful citizen in the future." 

THEA Foundation, based in North Little Rock, was founded in 2001 following the untimely death of Leopoulos’ 17-year-old daughter, Thea, who was an accomplished artist, actress and writer. 

"When Thea found her hidden talents in art, drama and writing it changed every aspect of her life in such a short amount of time," Leopoulos said. "She had confidence and her self-actualization process took off like a rocket. She discovered something exciting, and it taught our family the importance of art in a young person’s life."

THEA Foundation works in various areas of the arts to help develop the artistic abilities of interested students. Each year, several high school students receive the THEA Scholarship in both visual and performing arts. To date, THEA Foundation and partnering colleges and universities have given 115 high school students more than $1 million in scholarships.