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WHERE THE ARTS COME ALIVE!

PATHS program helps students share important stories

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The arts help give everyone a way to express themselves. From the artists on stage to the patrons experiencing the show, they inspire, transform and build individuals and communities. This magic was fully on display during HAMILTON when the Frank C. Shattuck Performing Arts Touch the Hearts of Students (P.A.T.H.S.) program titled ‘Share Your Story’ took 17 underserved students from Appleton Central on a journey through history, self-discovery and building confidence in their own potential.
 
The students were chosen through an application process at their high school and had to commit to trying their best and attending as many workshops as possible. Together, the group wrote personal narratives about themselves or someone they knew with the assistance of their teachers and Tara Pohlkotte from the nonprofit organization Storycatchers. For inspiration, they enjoyed opening night of HAMILTON as it made its Wisconsin premiere in the Fox Cities. Then, they refined their narratives before performing them on stage in the Kimberly-Clark Theater at the Center for friends, family and cast and crew members from the touring musical.
 
“On the surface, this program seems simple: Get these kids together to work on their stories, let them see the show as inspiration and then have a culminating event. It sort of feels like three main things, but there’s so many more pieces about what goes into that,” said Appleton Central Alternative High School Program English teacher Katie Chicquette Adams. “But in addition, the Fox Cities P.A.C. provided the Founders Room experience before the show and the funding to set aside protected time to get specialized instruction for the students (in their writing) … I have no idea how many performing arts centers have this kind of program, but holy moley!-- that we have it. That’s such a fortune. It gave my students an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have, plain and simple, whether it’s the night of the show but also the other opportunities involved, so I just think everybody should know about this program and what it’s doing to for the people we most want to help.”
 
Those people include student Claudia, who performed her story.
“It’s a great opportunity that a lot of people don’t get. It’s great and it’s fun and you get to meet a lot of new creative people. I like writing so this was really fun for me. I just want to say thank you to everybody who was involved for letting me, my school and my classmates get to have this journey.”
 
For Bailee, it was just important what she learned about herself and about her classmates in the process.
“What I learned from this experience was that everyone who shared was different from one another and that every piece had a strong and beautiful meaning to them. Also the fact that now you know a little bit (more) of someone’s story.”
 
Tristin added that he learned “It’s ok to do things that are uncomfortable,” and Kendra added  that she learned “Everyone had a story and everyone can get through hard times.”
 
For Storycatchers representative Pohlkotte, the growth she saw in students’ writing was best described as magic.
 
“Each one of these students came in with an openness to the process and into sharing sometimes really intimate or vulnerable pieces of their life. It’s an honor to get to sit alongside them as they figure out how to best serve the telling of their stories,” Pohlkotte said. “The way at the beginning of our time together they doubt their ability to tell their story on paper, let alone get up at a microphone and tell it live! Then to see them not only own their story but to own the experience and their authority to tell it is pretty magical.”
 
Sarah Reis, a social worker at Appleton Central, has already seen the difference the program has made for these students and will continue to make.
 
“Many of the students said they felt honored that others wanted to hear their stories. This gave them the opportunity to be heard. It also allowed many of them to conquer a fear and see how capable they are,” Reis said. “(Since the program) several of these students have been approached to present to at-risk middle school students about their experiences and resiliency and because they had the experience of performing on stage they now feel capable of presenting in other settings.”
 
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