I founded a program called The Jeremiah Project which is an after school and summer pottery, drama, and digital arts program for at-risk middle school aged kids. Last Friday was the culmination of a summer of artistic and theatrical activities. A musical performance and art exhibit was held at the Walt Disney World Boys and Girls Club in a predominantly lower income community near Orlando, Florida. Kids lip synced and moon-walked to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Beat It; they tumbled and stilt walked under the direction of Cirque du Soleil instruction, and exhibited the ceramics and photographs they created in our summer Jeremiah program.
The pride these kids experienced as a standing room only crowed cheered and whistled at their accomplishments, was palpable. One little girl, who has been in five different foster homes this summer, cried when she beheld the beautiful ceramic tray she had painstakingly glazed, saying "I can’t believe I made something this beautiful". Another eighth grade girl said, "You know when you compliment me it helps my self esteem".
Not all of these kids are going to pursue art as they grow older, but the experience has expanded them in ways they did not know were possible. They never knew they could throw a bowl on a pottery wheel or walk upright on stilts. One boy commented as he manipulated a digital image on his computer, "You know, I’m thinking I might become a doctor when I grow up."
Yeah, I think helping kids think bigger, is a great way to spend a weekend.