Empowering Long Island teens through painting

Artwork by eighth graders in the Central Islip School District is on display at Islip Town Hall. The message is to remind people what matters.

The artists are looking towards the future to get through tough teenage years. The work is part of the "I Matter" Project, an art-based youth-empowerment project that helps transform communities by enabling authentic communication, self-realization, and empathy.

Project founder Rob Goldman, a photographer, grew up in Huntington. He works with teens to raise awareness of issues that matter in the community.

"The 'I Matter' Project to me is a strong, bold statement for a kid to say, 'I'm here, I'm worthy and I need help,'" Goldman said. 

The "I Matter" Project, which started over five years ago, was always photography-based. This is the first time painting has been used.

"By doing a project like this, it just gives them a chance to stay in track," art teacher Candido Crespo said. "By having them get in tune with who they are and what their value is and add a visual component, the students are able to feel a little more comfortable in the decisions they make."

The district hopes to expand the project to get students in other grades involved.