Two Aiken County Public Schools received statewide recognition for their commitment to and excellence in arts education.

New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School received the 2019 Palmetto State Arts Education South Carolina STEAM School of Excellence Award.

The award recognizes schools that embody “the true spirit of STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – through the successful utilization of partnerships and resources," according to the PSAE website at www.palmettoartsed.org.

Shunte Dugar is the principal of New Ellenton Middle.

East Aiken School of the Arts received the 2019 South Carolina School of Excellence in Arts Education Award.

The award “recognizes schools that have done an outstanding job of making the arts essential to the education of their students. The state level awards provide an important opportunity to honor schools and the role they play in providing a creative learning environment for outstanding student achievement,” according to the PSAE website.

Lisa Fallaw is the principal of East Aiken.

“It's a great celebration of our teachers' hard work and their dedication to arts integration,” Fallaw said. “It recognizes their dedication and their passion for the arts in order to enrich a child's life. The award is truly about our teachers and our students.”

Fallaw said she and her teachers call the arts the “great equalizer.”

“They provide opportunities, and they level that playing field for kids,” she said. “No matter what background they come from, the arts enrich their lives. The research is very clear that the arts very much are tied to student achievement especially in that sense of creativity, in that sense of cooperation, in that sense of collaboration because you have to do all those things to put on a dance or a drama piece.”

The PSAE is a “network of educators, professionals and leaders who work together to ensure the continued growth and expansion of arts education are essential components of every child's education in the state of South Carolina,” according to its website.

Each year, the arts organization honors a handful of elite schools that represent the very best of arts education in South Carolina.

​Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.