Students Explore Self-Discovery

January 10, 2023

Local students engage in educational programs at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center including middle and high school students through the Frank C. Shattuck Performing Arts Touch the Hearts of Students (P.A.T.H.S.) Program. This program challenges and deepens the students’ understanding and appreciation of the arts. These middle and high school students tap into their potential and learn healthy behaviors by participating in workshops, engagement opportunities, live Broadway experiences, and interaction with touring cast members, teaching artists and Center staff. This season, high school students from Appleton Central participated in the P.A.T.H.S. Program entitled “Reflections”. A school social worker and program participant from the alternative program, as well as the Fox Cities P.A.C..’s Education Programs Manager, Sammi Stelzl, shed some additional light on the P.A.T.H.S. Program and what it looked like in the 2022-23 Season.

“Working and learning alongside their peers through the P.A.T.H.S. Program, the students build and develop relationships with each other,” Sammi shared. “They also are able to focus internally and learn how to better understand and accept themselves. The program culminates in a project, giving the students an opportunity to physically express what they learned about themselves and each other. Sometimes, the projects take students out of their comfort zones or give them moments of vulnerability, so it is important the students trust the process and are open to it.”

In the 2022-23 Season, the theme was “self-worth”, tying in beautifully with the Broadway production, Disney’s ALADDIN, that performed at the Fox Cities P.A.C. in December 2022. The students and teachers involved in the program enjoyed a performance of Disney’s ALADDIN at the Fox Cities P.A.C., as well as a catered meal and a chat back with three cast members, including the Genie. Partnering with a therapist from Catalpa Health, these high school students learned more about self-worth and how it is demonstrated by the characters in Disney’s ALADDIN.

In two sessions, the students delved into what positive self-practices look like and how they could implement those practices in their daily lives. Using what they learned about self-worth, the P.A.T.H.S. Program participants crafted their own mosaic mirrors at The Fire, reflecting on their own uniqueness and individuality. The mirrors were on display at the Fox Cities P.A.C. during the Broadway show’s run (December 6-11, 2022).  Family of the participants, Center staff and teachers from Appleton Central also attended the “Reflections” Gallery Exhibition in the Kimberly-Clark Theater at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. There, the mirrors and artist statements were on full display.

The thoughtfulness and introspection in the artist statements was impressive. It displayed a sense of self-awareness and artistry at a level not often seen in high school students. “The mirrors represent the students through individual creativity. They wrote beautiful artist statements that elaborated on their thought processes throughout the creation of the mirrors and which colors and pieces spoke to them,” Sammi reflected. “Having the students decorate mirrors also gave them the opportunity to literally reflect on themselves as they were creating.”

Petey James Alumbaugh a senior at Appleton Central and a 2022-23 P.A.T.H.S. Program participant shared, “I put my full, authentic self into my mosaic mirror.”

To enhance the student’s experience through the P.A.T.H.S. Program, Sammi works with teachers from the partnered school. “The teachers are an integral part of the program because they are the connection to the students,” Sammi remarked. “They help recruit students for the program, help with attendance and organize transportation for their students to program events.” Sarah Reis, a school social worker at Appleton Central who worked with the program participants commented, “I enjoy that the students get to come together and get to know each other in a different way – some may have been friends already, but the vast majority don’t know each other very well and doing groups and programs such as this can be a very bonding experience.” Regarding the crafted mosaic mirrors, Sarah mentioned, “Many of them (the students) had themes of overcoming challenges and it was clear that they felt they were on their way to a much brighter place in their future. I sensed hope for what’s to come.”

Much like Aladdin in Disney’s ALADDIN, the students had the opportunity to see themselves as being enough the way they are, that being themselves is beautiful. Sammi shared, “I hope that the students took away from the program that they are enough. Being their own individual, creative selves is enough for people to care about them. Hopefully, seeing the show, and doing this project will be a reminder to them of their own importance.”

A special thank you to Corporate Partner BMO for their support of the P.A.T.H.S. Program.

This program is part of the Community First Community Engagement Series. Thank you to Series Partner, Community First Credit Union for making this series possible.

Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center