A Transforming Role

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

For the past three years, dozens of at risk Rockford teens have been turning their lives around with the help of the Rockford Area Arts Council. They've literally been acting and dancing their troubles away.

Sarah Davis is a pro at playing the role of a teenager with an attitude problem – partly because that used to be her. But in the past eight weeks she's had an amazing transformation:

"I feel happier. I feel good about myself and the people around me," says Davis.

The applause she says goes to the Rockford Area Arts Council and its therapeutic drama program. Students learn to channel negative emotions in a more positive way, through acting, art and dance.

"It's much easier than to be sitting in front of a social worker or a counselor. They're able to act it out," says Program Instructor Geri Carter.

But part of the bargain is that students are on time, dependable and responsible. They earn a stipend each week if they live up to their end of the deal. Part of the program is job training - so this is also a way to teach them about real life skills.

"I role-play. I'm a mean boss and you have to cope with it, you don't walk out because you don't like me,” explains Carter.

In the three years carter has been teaching this program, she’s seen numerous success stories; record breaking – as she describes it.

"Parents have stopped me, ‘Mrs. Carter, you won't believe’ or ‘Thank you’, it’s all the time."

But each year carter has to turn dozens of students away because of limited funds. However, with support from the community, she says she could play a bigger part in turning lives around.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday night students will be performing their dances and plays at the new American Theatre. For more information, or to sponsor a student for the program, call the Rockford area arts council at 963-6765.

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