The Transformative Power of Arts Education


Youth Performing Because of Arts Education © Dahlia Katz

By Tracee Smith, CEO & Founder, Outside Looking In

The high school graduation rate for Indigenous youth currently hovers around 40 per cent nationally, compared to mainstream Canada, which is closer to 75 per cent. With most Indigenous families affected by the traumatic past of Residential Schools, the benefits of education have been somewhat lost from parents to children. Moreover, arts education is not always accessible in our communities.

Outside Looking In (OLI) addresses both of these issues with our flagship dance program that allows youth to engage with movement and have a space to feel free and express themselves. I hoped to create a program that would develop the relationship between youth and their education, igniting Indigenous success for generations to come.

Over the last 15 years, we are proud to have demonstrated that our model works! Youth involved in OLI Dance have a 97 per cent graduation rate. Almost three times that of the national average for Indigenous youth. Our OLI Dance program has extended into over 30 communities, and we’ve been expanding our programming to better support our youth every step of the way—from high school to the career path of their choice.

OLI hosts our annual performance at Meridian Hall every May in Toronto, marking the culmination of hard work, dedication, and perseverance from hundreds of Indigenous youth across the country. This has evolved to become Canada’s Largest Indigenous Youth Performance, where audience members learn about the youth and their communities, while watching them showcase their art.

outside looking in dance group posing together on stage, arts education, truth and reconciliation

This wouldn’t be possible without the generous support from our donors. Donor support has helped instill confidence in kids like Tegan, from St. Theresa Point First Nation, who told us that through OLI, they “…learned that when I give it my all, I can go beyond my limits.” We are so proud of what we’ve accomplished in our first fifteen years, and there’s still so much work to be done. We need your help to bring OLI into as many communities across Canada as possible.

Join OLI in empowering Indigenous success by giving a monthly gift of $30. If monthly giving isn’t accessible to you, consider giving a one-time gift of $125. Every donation, however big or small, propels our work.

True reconciliation is righting past wrongs that have failed our youth. We can do better today and affect significant community change. This wouldn’t be possible without generous people like you believing that Indigenous youth deserve the opportunity to pursue education, explore self-expression through the arts and shape their own journey to success.

Join us as we change the lives of Indigenous youth by igniting Indigenous success, providing the vital support needed to empower our youth, encouraging them to be proud of who they are, and celebrating their achievements, together.

You Can Help Give Indigenous Youth an Arts Education

Donate online at

Get your free copy of Global Heroes, jam-packed with positive news, straight in your inbox.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Through experiential education that explores self-expression, embracing challenges, and shaping the journey to success, Outside Looking In supports and empowers Indigenous youth from high school to their career path of choice.


Subscribe to our Newsletter and Access all issues of Global Heroes News straight in your inbox. 100% free, no purchase necessary, for life. Uplifting stories, highlighting the inspirational efforts of everyday people, celebrities, and organizations, who are diligently working together towards practical solutions to global problems.