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Performing Arts Academy

Outreach Program | Story

PAA launched a pilot outreach program in the summer of 2014 to serve students in a low-income Littleton, Colorado community. Now in its fourth year, our collaboration with Littleton Public Schools is thriving as we continue to reach at-risk children through high-quality performing arts and character building experiences that are typically inaccessible to them because of a lack of school or family resources. The after school programs for these 80-100 students at East and Field Elementary schools include 40+ total hours of curriculum-based instruction and programming time through rehearsals and voice, dance, and acting classes.  Each after school session concludes with 2 performances of a full-scale production for the community. Students receive snacks, a show CD, script, and a commemorative show T-shirt.  A student cast party celebrates the completion of the spring and fall programs with pizza, fruit, juice boxes and ice cream.

I continue to be amazed by PAA’s professionalism, organization, and dedication to teaching our kiddos all about music, dance, theater and the performing arts. I also love how everyone at PAA makes this experience fun for everyone while teaching them the importance of hard work, teamwork and building relationships and connections with each other.” 

–Parent

Children in this underserved community typically lack extended music and arts opportunities because of limited home and school resources. PAA’s spring and fall after-school outreach programs address these barriers by offering age-appropriate music and performance opportunities through immersive instruction and practice in singing, acting, dance, and basic music theory. Our experience and research shows that students benefit from PAA’s structured but strongly nurturing environment of instruction, mentoring, accomplishment, camaraderie, and a boost in confidence. Two distinguishing components of PAA programs are ensemble gathering and small group time (which we call “families”) where we engage students in nurture values of character and community through leadership, sharing, building trust, and deepening friendships. Our core philosophy is that these influences positively impact each child’s character and supports a holistic education that includes arts, individual development and cultural enrichment. PAA’s artistic, educational, and technical teams carefully develop programs and select these “Kids” Musical Theatre shows because of their suitability for the elementary age range and varied skill levels of the students. This will enable mastery of the show in the allocated timeframe and support a students’ sense of accomplishment.
PAA promotes positive social interactions through structured and non-structured activities in rehearsals, classes and gathering times.  The desired outcome is to lead our children and youth in a performing arts experience that enhances skills, unlocks their imagination, builds character, encourages collaboration, and fosters kindness, growth and learning. We seek to build these students through our core values of curriculum, character and community within the performing arts, ultimately changing the landscape of our culture in a positive way through children and youth.  It’s an important aspect of the program and we focus on discussing these principles and values in a variety of ways at the beginning and end of each day as related to musical theatre subjects such as diligence, respect or humility.  This gives the students an opportunity to express themselves to each other in “family groups” and reinforce the learning and desired outcome in a positive and creative way.

“We had the BEST experience. My daughter has been anxious and not wanting to get on stage for the past several years. This was her first time in years and PAA made it a fantastic experience. She felt loved and comfortable. She was pushed gently out of her comfort zone while feeling valued and successful. Whatever you are doing is working!” 

–Parent

At both schools, 80% of students are in the Colorado free/reduced lunch program.  School Demographics: 55-60% Hispanic, 30-36% White, with the remaining percentage divided between Black, Asian, and American Indian. Many times, a student’s experience with PAA represents a life journey that is best expressed through their stories. The number of examples could fill pages, but the following is an example of one at-risk child we supported who benefitted from our outreach efforts in 2014. Marie took part in PAA’s pilot outreach program at East Elementary. This fifth grader had no trouble being heard.  Her impatient style of yelling, talking harshly, and trying to take control of situations did not go over well with fellow students or faculty. Like many of the students at East, Marie coped with difficult life circumstances. Her mother fled a warring nation, children in tow, while expecting Marie, and speaks little English. Her father is absent. Marie seemed lonely and longing to fit in. After a few days of “acting out,” Marie started responding to steady guidance and instruction from staff. Her attitude noticeably changed; she calmed down and began to understand the value of the collaborative PAA experience. By participating in the gathering times, she made friends. We leveraged Marie’s leadership potential by making her a “Dance Captain” for Jungle Book, a title she relished. The principal later mentioned that PAA had been a game changer for Marie that spilled into her academic year. The next summer we saw a different Marie, more attentive, trusting, cooperative, and grateful. Our hope is that PAA leaves a lasting impression on many more students like Marie as they explore their talents and gain confidence in their own development.

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