Rancho Santa Fe youth helps others through Nov. 15 Healing Hearts event

By Karen Billing

Rancho Santa Fe’s Sarah Nicita wanted to find a way to give back through her love of art.

Just a freshman in high school at Francis Parker, she started volunteering for ARTS (A Reason to Survive), an organization dedicated to using the arts as a prevention and intervention tool for children and youth facing adversity. Now, as a junior, Sarah has organized an art auction with the hope to give back even more and showcase the love of arts that is alive at both Francis Parker and with ARTS students.

Her event, Healing Hearts, will be held on Friday, Nov. 15, from 3-5 p.m. at Francis Parker’s Rose Art Gallery.

The artwork exhibit will feature works up for auction from Francis Parker students, faculty and administrators, as well as professional artists.

Works in the auction range from a Batman print from Jim Lee, the publisher of DC Entertainment, to a sweet painting of a Cavalier dog by ARTS student Stephanie Jacobo. The event will also include some of Sarah’s art.

“I love knowing there are schools out there that value the benefit of arts in kids’ lives,” said Matt D’Arrigo, founder and CEO of ARTS. “We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Francis Parker School to give kids an outlet to express themselves.”

The event will also feature youth arts and crafts activities, food and live music from ARTS students, and Francis Parker bands. The pieces up for auction are available to view at

All of the proceeds will go to support ARTS, which serves youth ages 3-23, through programs that heal, inspire and empower youth. ARTS provides a creative outlet for “at-risk” kids during those critical after-school hours, kids that are going through issues such as homelessness, domestic violence, terminal or chronic illness, foster care, severe physical, mental and emotional challenges, incarceration, bereavement or having parents in the military. About 95 percent of the program’s participants are from minority, low-income families.

Sarah was first connected with arts as a freshman when she went to Francis Parker’s community service department in search of a way to turn her passion for art into helping others. She applied for and received a position as a painting teacher and assistant ceramics teacher at ARTS.

She relates her passion for art to the same feeling expressed by the dancer Billy Elliot from the play and movie of the same name. When asked why he loves to dance, Elliot says that it feels like “electricity.”

“There’s a certain electricity and energy associated with arts and creativity that’s contagious. I needed to do something to help share it,” Sarah said.

Sarah worked with older elementary school students and middle school students. Sarah said she was inspired watching kids develop and leave behind “life’s great challenges” that they were dealing with outside the classroom.

“By the end they come out transformed by the art itself and learn how to explore their creativity,” Sarah said.

Sarah, a painter who prefers working in oil, hopes to pursue a career in the arts field. She recently spent six weeks of her summer at the Rhode Island School of Design in a pre-college program.

“It was life changing in terms of perspective, but also humbling in that I really understood the work it takes for a career in the arts,” Sarah said.

She also called the process of being the teenage planner behind Healing Hearts a humbling one, but said it probably wasn’t as difficult as it could’ve been due to the support she received from Francis Parker.

“It’s really incredible to watch all the work that’s gone into it over the past year come together,” Sarah said. “My number one goal is to create awareness and support ARTS and for the community to really see how people are involved in something that’s very powerful.”

Francis Parker is located at 6501 Linda Vista Road in San Diego (92111).

For more information, call (858) 569-7900. To bid online, visit