Ten years ago, a 23-year old recent college grad moved to New York and saw two problems. The first: Despite living in one of the nation’s cultural centers, inner city kids were losing access to the arts. The second: he and his fellow young professionals had few ways to truly give back to their community. Cameron Snaith’s solution was Giving Opportunities to Others (GOTO).

Since 2001, GOTO has continued to expand its core outreach program aimed at enhancing artistic literacy and educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. Together with its Boston arm, GOTO has sent hundreds of middle school students to summer camp for the arts and has enabled thousands of young professionals to give back through volunteering and mentorship events.

GOTO’s mission is more important now than ever before. New York City area schools have slashed arts education in recent years due to the prolonged economic downturn. About 9% of New York City schools do not spend any money on arts education, according to a recent study by the New York City Public Advocate’s Office. Such a statistic is particularly disheartening when considering the apparent impact of arts education on graduation rates. The top third of NYC schools with the highest graduation rates have an average of 40% more spaces and instructors dedicated to the arts than the bottom third, according to a 2009 study by the Center for Arts Education.

As Victor Burgos, the father of a recent GOTO scholar, said at one of our annual events: “Schools have been cutting arts, music, shop – anything that has to do with creativity. When I went to school you had that, and now that is all disappearing. This program is a way of keeping that alive. It is something that our kids desperately need and it is vital to their enhancement of themselves as creative human beings.”