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Creative Arts * Creative Education * Creative Therapies

OCCTAC/Engage360 Art Students Honored In
Press Enterprise Publication

May 2021

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By: Mark Dimalanta


During the recent Covid-19 Pandemic, Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center was pressed to pivot, create virtual curriculum, and engage the students through the Zoom Platform.  Our society witnessed coarse and divisive themes which caused much anxiety among our community.  In partnership with SAUSD Engage 360, OCCTAC was able to reach the community and provided the much needed creative enrichment that gave balance to their core subjects and improved their social /emotional well being. We tasked our teachers to inspire their students to create art work that inspires unity through diversity.  The best educational tool was found within Mexican mythology in the form of the “Alebrije” and our California VAPA standards based curriculum, inspired by Favio Martinez Curiot. The students combined separate, but majestic creatures into one form, hence creating an even more beautiful species strengthened by unity.  In essence, each individual creature or symbol uniquely separate, but joined together as one... more beautiful. -A lesson we can all learn from during the pandemic’s divisive times. We are very proud to announce that 2 students were selected to participate in a county wide editorial for the Press Enterprise, written by Allyson Escobar.  Their work was featured in “How students are using Art to channel Covid-19 fears.”


Paola Sanchez, Age: 10, 4th Grade Adams Elementary SAUSD E360/OCCTAC, Teacher Blanca Ibarra. “From the chaos of darkness, beauty evolves by the fusion of color.” A contrast of colors and form made with Watercolor, chalk, tempera paint on card stock. Jimena Lemus Perez, age: 6, 1st Grade, Santiago Elementary, SAUSD E360/OCCTAC, Teacher Kristina Baker. “Mixed in Unity we find Love.” The blending of tiger, elephant, butterfly and giraffe to create a majestic new form, filled with love and smiles. -Media, watercolor, ink, & crayon wax resist.


The full article can be found here:

Engage 360 Is Top Of The Class!
November 2020


We sat down with OCCTAC’S Engage 360 Santa Ana Unified School District Coordinator, Mark Dimalanta for a one-on-one interview about the challenges and the joys of teaching students virtually this year:


“The start of the 2020-21 school year presented with challenges due to the pandemic, and nobody knew what to expect. The school district decided not to go into a hybrid form of learning like other school districts and instead stay in full virtual learning mode. The families didn’t know what Engage 360 After School Enrichment would look like for the 2020-21 school year, so they didn’t enroll. It was a rude awakening. So what did we do? We all mobilized to get the word out, and by round two (of enrollment) OCCTAC rebounded. We delivered individual kits to children at their home schools that enrolled and missed the distribution dates this year due to the pandemic. We went from 50 enrollees to 330-- zero to hero!  Because of the strength of our teachers and how they were able to engage with the students and create experiences with them, rotation 2 was a different story. We now have 418 students this session.



I want to thank my team for the experiences they gave their students and for their absolute dedication. I’m very proud that we gave them enrichment that they needed to support their social-emotional development, and I just couldn’t be any prouder of what OCCTAC does for this community. I think there was a void and we filled it. I’m happy that these families put their trust in us. I’m happy that they love our teachers. I’m happy that the kids choose us time and time again. Because of the parents’ desire for enhanced education for their children, the school district’s determination to provide programs for the students, and our dedicated teaching staff who worked hard to get those art kits distributed, what could’ve been another thing lost to the pandemic was a success.”

OCCTAC Engage 360 Program at
SAUSD Schools Thriving

November 2019


This year brought some changes to the SAUSD Engage 360 after school program, and OCCTAC Teaching Artists and Coordinator Mark Dimilanta were there to flex and help our SAUSD students succeed. With the impending structural and personnel changes at our SAUSD schools, OCCTAC remained resilient, rose above the challenge and successfully met or exceeded expectations for passing performance. Overall results showed that 84% of all elementary students in Rotation 1 demonstrated an increase in proficiency and understanding of the basic elements and principles of Art and Vocabulary enrichment, as observed in our Pre and Post-tests conducted at all 8 elementary schools.



With the shortened schedules, our teachers managed to guide each and every student to create several art pieces that showed amazing creativity at their respective Art Shows. Congratulations to our SAUSD students, the SAUSD Engage 360 program, and OCCTAC SAUSD Engage 360 Teaching Artists for producing beautiful and engaging art! Together, we are promoting arts literacy and education of the whole child in our community for the 21st century and beyond.

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