Excellence in Racine: Art Can be Therapy at Racine Alternative Education

Megan Goers’ art classroom at Racine Alternative Education is a collaborative environment where students learn to work together on something bigger than themselves and gain confidence to see their future.

“I was so intimidated when I took my first class with Ms. Goers because everyone was so close and such a good artist,” Jazmyn Seeger said. “I didn’t talk for the first month, but that’s all changed now.”

Seeger, 16, is a junior, and she is filled with confidence; she sits tall and looks people in the eye when she talks to them. She suffered from such anxiety about asking for help in her math and chemistry classes at J.I. Case High School that she fell too far behind to realistically catch up in the traditional classroom. She said her parents found RAE, and attending classes there – especially art with Goers – made all the difference in the world.

“I never thought I would draw or even paint, but Ms. Goers always knew I could do it, and now I do,” Seeger added.

Dr. Eric Gallien, deputy superintendent, said art at RAE often serves as therapy for students.

“The art program there is an outlet for students and really helps keep students engaged,” he said.

Goers nodded her agreement.

“What we do here is art therapy for at-risk students,” she said. “I run my classroom as a collaborative effort where students have to learn to work together on something that’s bigger than just one person. They critique each other, which can be terrifying the first couple of times, but in the end, they learn about each other and themselves and that there is something bigger, like a future.”

Jocelyn “Alex” White, 17, found her voice in Goers’ class. Her home school is Walden, but she was having trouble finding her way because she considers herself gender-neutral. White plans on legally changing her name later this year after she turns 18.

She has a nervous smile and is shy about displaying her artwork, but with Goers’ encouragement and that of her classmates, she pulled out an abstract painting that looked pulled from the night sky.

“Art helps me cope, and painting gets me closer to my feelings,” White said, running her hand over her work. “I really like the skies at night and just space in general.”

Because she had “such an awesome art teacher,” Goers became an art teacher. Her students say the impact Goers has in their lives is inspiring them to embark on careers where they are also making a difference. When they talked about what they want to be “when they grow up,” Goers was moved to tears.

Because she’s had the opportunity to complete her high school education at RAE, Seeger is graduating early. She plans to become an expressional therapist using art and music to help others.

White has a few more credits to recover, but she said she definitely has plans to get into a field where she can help future generations of students.

Juanita Chavez, 17 – featured here in a People of Racine County Eye video – said she isn’t sure exactly what her future plans hold, she just wants to be involved in helping people.

“I want to help,” she said. “I want to be for others what Ms. Goers is for me.”

**Editor’s Note: This is the 3rd story in a series about Racine Alternative Education:

Racine Alternative Education Helps Students Succeed

People of Racine County Eye: Meet Juanita Chavez