To my family and friends...
It is with great anticipation that I am finally announcing the 2018 Spring Musical. This year KIPP Bloom College Prep Presents: Annie Jr! If you know me, you know I LOVE a good tradition... and this one is STRONG!
Over the past 3 years you all know that the Southside of Chicago has become a huge part of who I am. It's where I spend the majority of my time. It's where my friends are. It's where my community is. It's a place that has changed me for good.
When I got hired and began teaching, I knew I was in a place that was so special. Our school sits in Englewood, Chicago. According to statitics, it is one of the most "dangerous" places in the United States. According to statistics, it has one of the lowest high school completion rates and with an even bigger drop in college graduation rates. I knew however, that I was in a place filled with teachers and families that were willing to put in the hard work to see that ALL kids received an excellent education. I began to step up with people who believed that kids growing up on the Southside deserved to use their life experiences, their rich history, and their unbelievable skill set- to go out into the world and change it.
However, my heart began to turn for the lack of extra curricular activities. Growing up, sports and dance were a huge part of who I was. It was where I felt like I "fit". It was where I felt like I learned the most about accountability, time managament, team work, and investment. When I came to Chicago, at the time, there were no arts programs at school. No after school sports. Kids were craving something more than academics- and a group of teachers and I were determined to give that to them. Regardless of the extra hours, extra money, extra exhaustion it took- it was the right thing. And little did I know, it would become the best part of my day!
So, most of you know how the story has gone. My colleagues and I have started an official arts program at our school. THANKS TO YOU. Thanks to your belief, your love, your support, and your generosity... we are able to give kids access to dance, theatre, music, stage crew, set design, costume creation, sound equipment and much more. We have had people from litterally ALL over the country donate to make this happen. We have worked along side people in our community in churches, other schools, community groups and more to see that we got what we needed.
I wish you all could see it. The look of pride on kid's faces when they get on stage. I wish you could see the extreme problem solving that happens when kids realize something needs to change on set. I wish you could see how kids come alive knowing the have somewhere to be on Saturday. I wish you could see the friendships that have formed. I wish you could see the students that wouldn't have even answered a question in class, suddenly begin to read and express themselves on stage. I wish you could see the types of kids it impacts. Football players, introverts, artistic types, all level of academic levels. It's something magical. It's something that will stay with me forever.
Last year, we did the Lion King. It was honestly, insane. We went all out. We had enough money from donations and a grant to order sound equipment. Talk about the show coming to life! I had friend in the community teach myself and some of our 7th and 8th grade boys how to run a full sound board. We had someone donate their time (literally 100's of hours!) to make the costumes, all the way from New York. If only you could have seen the look on kid's faces when a package arrived, with their name, their perfect size, their very own costume!
We learned how to do makeup, and kids learned to do eachother's.
I'm telling you, the show was transformationl. Tears were shed, hearts were lifted. Someone in the audience actually saw the show and asked our cast to perform at a fundraiser. That resulted in us taking all 50 kids to the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Chicago to perform for donors and even some famous people (like Common the rapper... not to name drop!)
I promise you, we have a real program. This is now a tradition that our school, our kids, our families honor and cherish. If you've donated before you will see that we saved every single piece of set, costume, equipment that we've bought with your money. It's amazing what we have to work with.
However, each year there are more expenses. We need to actually buy materials and music for a new show. We need to feed kids when they come to rehearsals on Saturday. We need new costumes for a different genre of show we've never done before. We need to somehow create a new set that reflects the New York sky line, an orphanage, and a mansion instead of the African Savannah. You all understand, it just costs money to run a program of any kind. If you know me at all, you know I don't do anything small. When I'm in, I'm in 100%... so this show has to be spectacular.
If you are someone who has donated your time, your creativity, your money, your prayers, or your support- I can assure you, your impact is greater than you could imagine. Our school, our kids, our families appreciate everything. It has created a safe place, a place to take risks, and place to belong- to hundreds of kids.
If you are able, I ask that you donate money in order to make our new show happen. We promise to steward our money wisely, to ask for donations, to re-use whenever we can, to watch for sales and coupons, and to be creative with our resources.
If you aren't able to donate money, I ask that you pray for us. That each kid would leave rehearsal better than they came. That new interests would be peaked. That kids would try something new and see it through, even if it challenges them. Please send love and good vibes that maybe this production would open up a life changing opportunity for even one student.
Truly, we couldn't do this work without the belief and supports of those who love us. Thank you for making my dream come true- that ALL kids deserve a lifetime of opportunity.
Let's get the party started!
With SO MUCH love and gratitude,