Artist, student, upright citizen

Senior in the NDP IB art program leads special art sessions for area elementary school and demonstrates how to live the school mission.

“Head Heart Art” is an after-school and summer program for students in grades 3 through 6. Each 75-minute session, which is held at a local charter school, includes tutoring, leadership lessons, and art projects in an active classroom where creativity thrives. 

That’s the description of a special art program dedicated to helping children reach academic success through art. According to Notre Dame senior Anna Miklas, who spearheaded the program at Walton Charter Academy just down the street from the NDPMA campus, the children have created some amazing art that has truly inspired them. But it’s not always about just making art, she said.

“Our art sessions always begin with homework tutoring, which refers to the ‘head’ part of the program’s name,” Miklas said. “With the personal attention of a leader, students take pride in showing off their multiplication and reading skills. This also establishes an academic mindset for the following art lesson, highlighting the fact that fun and learning can exist together.”

The “heart” part refers to the academic and creative tasks that focus on new leadership qualities.

Truly amazing work 

“The quality of the week generates group discussion and dictates that week's lessons,” Miklas said. “Our students reflect daily to evaluate their academic and creative use of the leadership quality. The student who best applies that quality earns him or her a Head Heart Art T-shirt and is named Artist of the Week.”

Miklas said the “art” part of the program name means that students learn an art history lesson and complete a hands-on art activity every session. Each lesson focuses on a specific famous artist, which then inspires an activity. The lesson explores the artist's historical significance, the coinciding art movement, and relevant vocabulary words. After students learn about famous artists of the past, they create their own art.

“Our activity structure is open and fluid, which encourages individual expression for each young artist,” Miklas said. “This freedom yields some truly amazing work.​“

Miklas is not doing all this great work alone, however. She’s getting help currently from fellow Notre Dame students Gretel Keller, Lia Mastroianni, Maggie Miklas, Peter Kochanski, Malini Mukherji, and Juliet Jacoby, all members of NDP’s IB Diploma Program. “They are exceptional students and the kids love them and look up to them as role models,” she said.

As Head Heart Art expands, Miklas hopes to recruit more freshman as leaders. “Once I go off to college, Maggie Miklas, my sister and current freshman, will continue a version of the program and I would like for her friends to already have experience with our mission,” she said.

Inspiring lesson plans

According to Miklas, most lesson plans in the program are based on an artist that may catch her eye during any given week. Sometimes the projects are derived from Miklas’s own studies in art class, other times from something she sees in a magazine or book she’s reading. 

“If nothing naturally develops during the week, I just go back to the classics: Monet, Picasso, Warhol, etc. 

“I love creating my own lesson plans because it develops my own art appreciation,” she said. “However, sometimes I look to teacher blogs or a book titled ‘Great American Artists for Kids’ for inspiration. For example, I borrowed a project based on Wayne Thiebaud’s dessert paintings, but then developed my own lesson around it. I focused not just on how to draw, but on how to form relationships with our drawings and the surrounding world.”

All of Miklas’s lessons actually are on her website,, which she hopes will serve as a template for others to expand the program not only here in Michigan but across the country. “The general lessons are the same for grades three through five,” she said. “With the help of many eager leaders, they are individualized to each child, and challenge and encourage them at their skill levels.” 

College and career?

Meanwhile, she is in the early stages of expanding the program and will pursue it more heavily once the busy college apps season ends for her and for her senior classmates. 

“I am currently considering bringing the program to Oakside Scholars, a charter school in Waterford that is connected with Walton Charter Academy,” she noted. “I hope to personally lead the program at Oakside starting this winter, and allow my sister, with the help of other Head Heart Art veterans, to continue the program at Walton.

I am also open to supporting anyone who wants to carry forward Head Heart Art’s mission of ‘fostering a passion for learning in students’ at other schools nearby.” 

As far as her own future after Notre Dame Prep, Miklas has not yet picked her college.

“Williams College [a private liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts] is my dream school, but I am also applying to Princeton, Penn, Brown, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern among others,” she said.

She’s also not ready to pick a major either. “Right now it could be anything. Over the summer, I took a computer science class at Oakland University, which sparked my curiosity. It would not surprise me to see computer science in my future. However, I will also definitely continue exploring my passions for art and art history as well as perhaps economics and anthropology. Computer science, art, economics, anthropology? It is too hard to pick one just yet!” 

As far as a future career, Miklas wants one that allows her to travel, impact others in a positive way and stay involved in the arts.

“I have faith that by continuing to explore different passions and by staying involved in the community, my career will naturally fall into place,” she said. “I may be a computer programmer, art curator, or perhaps both. The mystery excites me.”

Future Notre Dame students

While the mysteries ahead of her may excite Miklas, she’s also energized by the time she spent at Notre Dame, which included studying at ND Marist Academy.

“NDPMA has provided an environment in which I can grow and thrive,” she said. “For example, the three levels of knowledge learned and explored in Mr. Butorac’s IB English class — summarize, analyze, synthesize — were eye-opening and have deepened my approach to creating. In Ms. LewAllen’s IB Art class, I am challenged to think beyond the physical art and explore thematic connections and personal values. These learned abilities have helped me teach my own young students with a deeper message and that has allowed those kids to more closely relate to both their schoolwork and their artistic creations.”

Along with fostering that passion for learning in her young students, Miklas notes that Head Heart Art has also started a fund for needy students to help advance their education and inspire their love of learning. 

“Corporate sponsors have graciously contributed to the fund,” she said. “Now, with the expansion of Head Heart Art, we also hope to expand this fund and even provide a greater amount of deserving students an opportunity to attend Notre Dame Prep.”

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at