Access to the Arts for Everyone – Thanks to FHC Drama

Posted on 12/22/2016
Stages St. Louis and Francis Howell Central Drama students group together on the FHC stage.

The arts are an important part of education for so many reasons, and they enrich our lives in many ways. A program has been implemented by a theater group in St. Louis that enables area youth with physical, cognitive, and/or developmental delays to participate in musical theater arts, inspiring the Francis Howell Central (FHC) High School Drama Club to get involved. This fall, FHC Drama was able to sponsor (through a grant) a “Disney Review” for these students.

“A couple of years ago,” FHC Drama teacher Cori Nelson said, “I was introduced to a program with Stages St. Louis called ‘Access to the Arts.’ I was blown away seeing acting students and special education students working together to perform on the same stage. There was nothing but smiling faces in the audience.”

That’s the kind of story that gives you goosebumps. You couldn’t help but smile to see the students working together, and the joy it created. For Nelson, “It was life-changing. When I saw what the impact could be, I knew in my heart I would bring this program to the school where I would be teaching.”

Now Nelson is the Drama teacher at FHC, and she isn’t one to bend on a promise. She knew resources were limited, but also knew the positive effect the program could have not just on the students with special needs, but her drama students as well. So she wrote a grant to help make it happen.

“Last year,” Nelson said, “I wrote an essay and won the only grant in St. Charles County for my proposal on using the money to bring the program to FHC. I was blessed by being awarded the money.”

The grant, however, was a one-time gift. Any money raised on the evening of the show will be going toward a potential encore performance next year. “This will be such a gift to those students and their families,” Nelson said.

As with so many other FHSD teams and clubs, FHC Drama has been giving back this year. In addition to this program, their “Improv Central” group sponsored an improvisation show and volunteered their time and 100% of the gate to the
Thumbs Up for Lane Foundation, a charity that works with children with cancer and their families. The $500 raised by the group was given to a local family that really needed the assistance.

All the actors and stagehands of FHC Drama improve our lives with their talents, but they are now helping others do the same. And it’s great to see that it’s not just an act.

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