For the first time, Cross Keys Middle School students are partaking in a theatre and performing arts program thanks to the JumpStart Theatre program, an Educational Theatre Foundation initiative that builds musical theatre programs in middle schools that previously had none.
Located in Ferguson, Missouri, a community still recovering from the 2014 Michael Brown tragedy, where all 800 students qualify for free or reduced lunch, no resources allowed students to experience professional theatre facilities, equipment, or productions. Though Cross Keys Middle School had both choir and drama after school clubs, there was no theatre program.
The JumpStart Theatre grant partnered Cross Keys Middle School with Stages St. Louis, a regional non-profit committed to preserving and advancing the art form of musical theatre through excellence in performance and education. The grant helped Stages St. Louis establish a Cross Keys performing arts program while training school staff on how to execute a quality production. Such changes brought excitement to the middle school.
“This is a dream come true,” said choir teacher Talya Perry. “I hope that our kids grow, have fun, and that they discover the possibilities in the arts, not just on stage, but behind stage also.”
In 2019, Cross Keys Middle School performed their first musical, Once on This Island Jr. The JumpStart Theatre grant, which funds Cross Keys Middle School theatre arts program for three years will allow students to perform more productions in the upcoming season. Fully aware of theatre’s influence on students, Cross Keys Middle School staff are looking forward to the grant’s continuous impact.
“I know, first-hand, that the arts can be beneficial for students. This grant will jump start our theatre program by providing us with the training and resources needed to continue quality productions at CKMS,” Perry said.
Because Cross Keys Middle School was encouraged by JumpStart Theatre’s potential to give students a positive focus and build positive relationships among them, Principal Chris Clark has begun prioritizing the arts into the middle school’s curriculum, noting theatre could further improve students’ literacy and learning experience for years to come.