Actor Tim Robbins visits Hayward students as part of Turnaround Arts program

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- Students at an East Bay Elementary School were treated to some Hollywood magic Friday, thanks in part to a national program that educators say has made all the difference in boosting academic achievement.

At Burbank Elementary School in Hayward there was hero's welcome for a man many of these kids have grown to love.

"I thought it was going to be boring, like he would be serious, but he was really fun," said Eunice Frimopong, a Burbank Elementary School student.

Eunice is talking about actor/artist Tim Robbins who spent the day mentoring students as part of the National Turnaround Arts program, a White House initiative using arts education as a tool to help turn around America's struggling schools.

"Here they walk into a creative environment, the art is on the walls, that part of them is being celebrated as something that's important and essential," Robbins said.

Burbank is one of 49 Turnaround Arts Schools across the country. Since being selected for the program, the school has added a visual arts teacher, and bolstered its music programs.

"The art has played a very important role, the integration of art in every classroom," said Irma Torres-Fitzsimons, the Burbank Elementary School principal.

School officials say test scores and attendance numbers have improved greatly. In fact, the program has helped Burbank become the highest-performing public elementary school in Hayward. Students say their sense of confidence has gone up.

"I feel like that I'm part of something big, bigger than what I am at this school," said Anthony Restellini a Burbank Elementary School student.

"I love that you can embrace yourself, and just like relax and do whatever you want," said Lucy Giang

This was Robbins' third visit to the school. He'll continue serving as its turnaround arts mentor through 2017.

"If you provide a robust arts education, you're giving these kids a leg up on life. Why don't we want to do that? Why wouldn't we do that? It makes sense," Robbins said.

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