His HORIZON YOUTH THEATRE PROJECT, a collaboration of student-written and student-directed plays, is the recipient of a $1,000 grant from the San Gorgonio Education Foundation, which was awarded at the January 26 Banning school board meeting.
According to Waedekin, building an ensemble is the key to this project. “I hope to encourage teens to be responsible to the larger group, rather than thinking of the needs of their own. If everyone’s focus is towards the group, they can help, support, encourage and challenge each other.”
Also, Waedekin reports, “Ensemble practice fosters a collective ownership of the art: believing in actors as creative, as well as interpretive artists; because of its focus on inclusivity and collaboration, all members of an ensemble develop a sense of the whole … performers can take greater risks and experience greater growth, knowing that the ensemble develop a sense of the whole … performers can take greater risks and experience greater growth, knowing that the ensemble will catch them if they fall.”
Funds include a budget for sets, costumes, T-shirts with the program’s logo, and a field trip to experience a live performance of EVITA at Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm Springs.
New Horizons senior Ryan LaCasse is excited about the afterschool program. “It will give students in our situation (those attending a continuation school) a chance we normally don’t get.”
LaCasse hopes that their short plays “will give people an idea of what we go through every day, and how we look at life.”
Continuation high schools provide education alternatives for students who may be at-risk of not graduating at normal pace; some students are the breadwinners at home, and work jobs that affect either ability to attend school; others may be behind due to family situations, illnesses, or other incidents that disrupt their participation in a traditional high school environment.
Another student in the program, Katelynn Tate, is grateful to have the new drama program. “A theatre program at different type of school, makes me happy, and creates a sense of normalcy for students at a school like New Horizons,” Tate says.
“This will offer an opportunity to express our true selves,” says student Katie Pewitt.
Student Stephanie Hosking looks forward to using the experience beyond high school. “I would love to be an actor,” she says. “I look forward to participating in the process after graduation. This will give me the insight I’ll need to get acting jobs.”
Simply put, as student Yulissa Rangel Valdez puts it, “I hope someday this will help make me famous.”
The Horizon Youth Theatre Project was one of a handful of programs applying for funds from the San Gorgonio Education Foundations’ second-ever grant distribution, which also received significant support from the Sun Lakes Charitable Trust, and the San Gorgonio Pass Round Table.
“It’s going to impact so many students beyond even those who work on these plays,” says education foundation grant committee chairwoman Gae Rusk. “Those who come to enjoy and experience the end product – it’s an organic project that reflects an A-plus teacher.”
The project was selected by a majority decision of judges from the community, who included city councilwoman Debbie Franklin; retired university professor Muriell Garbo; retired educator Juanita Sibole; retired teacher and school librarian – and education foundation board member – Betty Meltzer; and Morongo School past principal Mason Patterson.
Staff writer David James Heiss is president of the San Gorgonio Education Foundation, and a member of the San Gorgonio Pass Round Table.