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"I Think There Is a Chance I Can Become Someone Special in Life" (and Other Reasons to Give These Children a Hand)

Posted Oct 14 2012 6:48am

"What brings me here?" the 7th grade girl wrote on a piece of torn notebook paper as she leaned forward on the long table in the "cafetorium," as did about 60 other middle school boys and girls at this after-school drama club when asked to address that question.  

After a short delay, she answered. "When you are on stage, it can be kind of scary, but after you pass your second sentence, you own it."  

"You can come in, be yourself, and not be judged by anyone," another wrote.

The answers continued to pour in.

"This is a place where you don't have to wear the name brand or have the popular attitude."

"I love to act and sing and dance, but it's more than that.  Everyone here is a little goofy, like me. They're not afraid to put it all out there."

"Theater is my sport. And these are my friends."

"I come to drama to feel safe and to be able to express my emotions and create a magical performance."

"I'm shy and nervous and I think this will teach me how to overcome that."

"When I walk through those doors each week, I think this could be my life some day."

"I want to learn technical engineering. Maybe it will even help for getting into college."

"I think it is very interesting how they do curtains, lights, costumes, and props, and I'd like to be a stage manager."
"I'm the kind of person who likes to help." 

Now, consider that arts funding is being or has been cut or slashed to the bone at many public schools (at a time when bullying is in the news constantly), and that this popular club, founded by a special education teacher more than ten years ago named Gina Monteleone as a place where everyone would be welcome and no experience was necessary, is completely self-funded. You start to see why these children are at constant risk of losing their special place in the world.  

You start to see where you fit in, where you have an important role to play if you understand how these children feel about the arts, or if you simply know what passion for what you do feels like. Maybe you live near this school (Dunwoody, Georgia, in metro-Atlanta) and you can come to its major fundraiser, the Fall Festival on Saturday, October 20 at Peachtree Charter Middle School (PCMS) on North Peachtree Road from 9 AM to 2 PM.  Bid on the silent auction of valuable goods and services from community businesses and citizens. Buy some used books at bargain prices. Participate in your favorite carnival games, or try something new. Make crafts.  Enjoy performances. Purchase food, including fresh-baked goodies. And know that you are helping the child who said he is here because "I feel like part of a community."

Maybe you live in metro-Atlanta and want to nurture these budding thespians and technicians as you know the importance that youth plays in our vibrant metro-wide arts scene, or you are with a corporation that values supporting the arts (scroll through this illuminating national report on the relationship between the arts and economic prosperity). Maybe you live somewhere else in this country or world and you know that the arts touch hearts, grow minds, and expand vision and you want to keep young dreams and untapped potential alive. This drama club's 501(c)3 nonprofit booster club makes it easy for you. Click here to donate securely via Paypal . Pass the link to this article on via your social media networks. And help give these children, and the sponsoring teacher (who is the school's band teacher, Mr. Shores), volunteer parents (many of whom, like Liane LeMaster, are former or current arts professionals, and even parents, like Bridget Shepard, of past club members who still come back to help) a hand.

All proceeds from the Fall Festival will benefit the PCMS Drama Club's spring production of Once on This Island (Jr.), a Broadway play that was nominated for eight Tony Awards and features a peasant girl on a tropical island who uses the power of love to bring people together.  It was chosen because of its crowd-pleasing Calypso beats and its multiple, strong ensemble roles that will give many children a chance to "own it."  The technical theater students will even get the opportunity to do the thing some of them said they want to do most--"create" fire.  Money raised provides supplies for the two all-day set-building days where the club members themselves and their parents wield hammers and paint to make theater magic. It also buys critical technical supplies such as microphones so you can hear the child who said she believes she is here because "I think there is a chance I can become someone special in life."

Find out more about the Peachtree Charter Middle School Drama Club, including corporate sponsorship opportunities, on its website here . And make a note to yourself to attend this middle school's performances of Once on This Island in May, 2013, when the child who wrote this on her torn notebook paper will take the stage:

"What brings me to drama is that sense of commitment, of belonging, like I'm actually needed to bring something unimaginably amazing to hundreds of smiling faces.  Also, here you can be anyone or anything. So hit the lights, open the curtains, and smile.  It's show time."
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