Given recent sobering events and the things around us that seem like chronic challenges, I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of individual action.

Does it really matter if I pick the “wish list” ornament off the Giving Tree and buy something for someone I don’t know? Does it actually make a difference if I shop at my neighborhood boutique instead of a chain store?  Does it truly help global cyber security if I download all the patches and upgrades for my laptop’s software?

And what about our actions as they relate to enjoying and supporting the arts? Does that really make a difference in the bigger scheme of things?

Last week, the ArtsWave staff had the chance to see up close how the arts make a substantive, life-altering difference in the lives of students in Cincinnati Public Schools who face the real risk of dropping out. We visited the Cincinnati Arts and Technology Center (CATC), a beautiful education facility with the motto, “Giving hope and opportunity.”  CATC uses rigorous instruction in hands-on arts experiences (like digital multimedia, ceramics, painting, stained glass) to help high school students earn the credits they are missing, in order to move on to the next grade or graduate.

With an enrollment of 400 to 500 each year, CATC has a success rate of more than 90 percent in getting its participants to graduation. Of those who make it to graduation, 85 percent voluntarily take steps to apply to higher education institutions.

Think about it: hundreds of Cincinnati youth are finding a path to high school graduation — and all that it means for future opportunities in life — because of an alternative learning environment that builds on the proven power of the arts to teach skills such as analysis, evaluation, creative problem solving, and how to act on information.

The youth who make their way to CATC, at Longworth Hall in downtown Cincinnati, are coming with myriad obstacles to staying in school and might never have experienced personal success or felt the consistent support of an adult in their life.

“Every day we are on the verge of a miracle, or at the edge of a disaster,” said CATC Director Clara Martin.

At CATC, the arts are tilting the scale toward miracle.

And the art that CATC students create is inspiring. This fall, the common theme explored through writing, research and art-making is “impact.” Students have been asked to create sculptures, paintings, blown glass or digital artwork that expresses something in their life that has had great impact — positive or negative. One young woman depicted “cancer” through clay.

On Saturday, Dec. 12 from 3 to 6 p.m., CATC will open its doors to the public for its 8th Annual Deck the Hall Student Show and Sale.

Here is a great opportunity for all of us to act, to see, to be part of “giving hope and opportunity” to youth in our community who need it, at a time when the news around us is overwhelming and individual action seems underwhelming

I’ll be there, not only shopping locally, but also taking inspiration from the brave individual actions of these teens and teachers making miracles through art every day.