R. Frank Nims Middle School Principal Benny L. Bolden, Jr. is the recipient of the 2022 Opening Nights at Florida State University Arts Advocate Award, presented by VyStar Credit Union.
Bolden, a Florida A&M graduate and an adjunct professor in the FSU College of Education, Educational Leadership and Administration, was selected for the implementation of a robust, multidisciplinary arts program at Nims Middle School that has improved student academic success and reduced student suspensions.
“This is one of the greatest honors of my life,” said Benny L. Bolden, Jr., when accepting the award. “Arts education is a vital right, not merely an option. It has always been and will continue to be an important element of education’s core truths and fabric. The ideals are intensified when they are combined with the concepts of inclusion and equity. As a principal, I have led the charge for arts education ideals while also directing our Performing Arts Department’s expansion and growth.”
Bolden expanded Nims’ arts program to include chorus, orchestra, theatre and visual art in addition to band and dance. Student enrollment in the arts has more than doubled, increasing from 230 to more than 550 students.
His vision and efforts culminated in a concert that showcased students and brought more than 700 people in the community together through music.
“From students, faculty, staff, neighbors, business leaders and community partners, it is not hard to see and feel the impact that the increased quality and offerings in arts education have had on not only Nims but on the entire Southside community,” said Brooke Hobbs, a member of the Opening Nights Arts Advocate Award Selection Committee.
Because of Bolden’s award, Nims Middle School will receive an arts education program and performance presented by Opening Nights during the 2022-23 school year. Additionally, Bolden will receive a 2022-23 Opening Nights Season ticket package valued at $1,000.
“This award gives us an opportunity to congratulate and celebrate Dr. Benny Bolden —an educator, principal and leader who is a passionate advocate for arts education and community collaborations,” said Rocky Hanna, superintendent for Leon County Schools. “He seeks out ways to provide high-quality art experiences for his students, which represents the value and importance we all place on bringing art and cultural opportunities to the classroom. I’m incredibly proud of Dr. Bolden and the light he continues to shine on the things that matter in our community.”
Bolden has transformed Nims, a Title 1 middle school in one of Tallahassee’s lowest socio-economic areas, into a school that administrators and community members hail for a well-rounded education and the inspiration it’s giving students, teachers and parents. He makes the programs available for all students, resulting in better academic achievement, free community performances, learning gains and minimal referrals and suspensions.
“These programs have reduced one of the highest behavior/referral problem schools to almost none,” said Tamika W. Jenkins, administrator at R. Frank Nims Middle School. “Most importantly, students and teachers have a desire to come to school and something to look forward to.”
A passionate and unwavering advocate for the arts, Bolden often attends school board meetings to make sure the arts in Leon County schools are funded.
“Supporting initiatives that make communities stronger is a top priority at VyStar Credit Union,” said Gilbert A. Levy, Senior Vice President, Regional Community Relations. “Opening Nights is a prime example of that, and the positive changes Benny L. Bolden Jr. made in the arts and education communities are truly inspiring. We hope others will follow his lead.”
Bolden previously received the TCC Cherry Hall Alexander African American History Award. He’s also a member of Leadership Tallahassee (class 38), Delta Epsilon Tau National Honor Society, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Florida Bandmaster Association, Florida Music Educators Association, Florida Association of School Administrators, the National Education Association and the Florida State University Educator Preparation Advisory Board.
“A graduate of Florida A&M University, Principal Dr. Benny Bolden continually embodies the tenets of the Marching 100 motto — character, leadership, service and musicianship,” said Darryl Jones, chair of the Leon County School Board. “These noble traits inform his leadership and commitment to his students, faculty and community at large. He is most worthy of this important acknowledgment.”
For more information, visit https://openingnights.fsu.edu/education/arts-advocate-award/.