Actor, White House Advisor Kal Penn to Visit Harding Middle School

kal-pennActor and former White House advisor Kal Penn will be spending Thursday, April 9 at Harding Middle School, working with students and teachers thanks to the Turnaround Arts program, an initiative to integrate the arts into other curriculum areas to improve learning and achievement.

Kalpen Suresh Modi (Kal Penn) is an actor, writer, and producer. From 2009 to 2011, he was an Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, serving as liaison to Young Americans, the Arts, and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

Before joining the White House, he worked as an artist and actor in Los Angeles and New York, and was also an Adjunct Lecturer in Asian American Studies, Film Studies, and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as a member of the Obama for America National Arts Policy Committee in 2008 and as a National Campaign Co-Chair in 2012. Mr. Modi received a B.A. from University of California, Los Angeles.

Highlights of the day at Harding include:

  • 8:00 AM          Arrive at Harding Middle School (203 E Euclid Ave): welcome from student government and Principal Maureen Taylor, tour of the school with Student Government member
  • 9:00 AM          8th grade Civics Class
  • 9:45 AM          6th grade Orchestra
  • 10:30 AM        Break/Media Availability with Kal Penn
  • 11:00 AM        7th grade Literature Class
  • 11:50 AM        6th Grade Assembly: performances by DJ Wolfpack, The Harding Breakerz, and student poets
  • 12:25 PM        7th/8th Grade Assembly: performances by DJ Wolfpack, 7th and 8th grade band, and student poets
  • 1:45 PM          Hip Hop Class: Digital Storytelling Awards in the auditorium

In May 2012, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, launched Turnaround Arts as a pilot program in eight schools across the country that were low-achieving and receiving federal School Improvement Grants.

In Des Moines, Findley Elementary School was one of the first eight schools in the nation to participate in the program. Earlier this year, a national report found big gains in reading and math proficiency at Findley and the other original Turnaround Arts schools.

Starting this school year, four additional DMPS schools – Cattell, Harding, Madison and Oak Park – are also participating in the Turnaround Arts program.

For additional information about Turnaround Arts, visit