Thea Kay Leopoulos’s story begins as a rather typical one for a seventeen-year-old girl, making Cs and Ds and generally not excited about school. However, by the end of her junior year, Thea was making As and Bs in difficult subjects and loving school. It was bittersweet for her parents, Paul and Linda, to learn just days after her car accident that Thea had received an A in Trigonometry for the 2000-2001 school year.
The Leopouloses immediately sought to understand what happened in Thea’s life that caused such a drastic transformation in just seven months. They looked to Thea’ s art and journal for clues, where they discovered the motivation behind her uplifted attitude, zealous involvement in school organizations and extracurricular activities, good grades, and boosted confidence. It was Thea’s sudden involvement in visual art, dance, drama, and creative writing that made all the difference.
The Leopouloses started Thea Foundation that same year, awarding the foundation’s first round of scholarships to visual arts students at North Little Rock High School, Thea’s alma mater, and spreading the word about the wonders arts involvement did for their daughter’s confidence and well-being. Now, after more than sixteen years of research, we have confirmed the constructive, life-changing effect the arts have on young people by hearing firsthand from hundreds of students how the arts instilled them with confidence and prepared them for the future and from listening to parents and teachers who recount the obvious therapeutic, empowering and self-affirming effects the arts have on students of all ages.