ST. PETESBURG – The crowds doubled this year at the Art Conservatory for Teens (ACT) fundraising breakfast. With a mission of educating, empowering and enriching the lives of youth and teens through arts education, it’s no wonder so many people showed up to Morean Center for Clay May 4.
ACT is an afterschool magnet performing arts program with sites at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, the Enoch Davis Center, Childs Park Recreation Center, John Hopkins and Tyrone Middle Schools. With 280 kids currently enrolled in the program, they are in talks with the Pinellas County School board to add more locations.
Professional instructors work with the children, who are between the ages of 11-18, in areas such as acting, singing and chorus, modern dance, hip hop, music production, visual arts, poetry and spoken word, painting and drawing, photography, video production and filmmaking.
ACT’s President Herbert Murphy said one of the primary goals of the program is to build the connection between the parents and their children, and not only the daily connection but also the growing ones that change with time.
Once a month, ACT hosts a family bonding dinner to talk about the previous days and what is to come. This dinner is part of that continuing process.
“Behind every successful child is an involved and informed parent,” he said, adding that parents most continue to educate themselves. “These young folks live through modern times, we must add to our awareness.”
Mayor Rick Kriseman recognizes the value of art and culture in St. Petersburg and believes the reason why the city has taken off in recent years is because of the thriving arts scene. He feels that it is of the utmost importance to expose the youth to the arts.
“Programs like ACT fill a void that is so desperately needed in this community,” the mayor said. “It’s about the future of the city and the kids.”
He asked the crowd to step up their support for the program.
ACT touts a 100 percent high school graduation rate and a 90 percent college placement rate.
At last month’s monthly dinner, every child received a personal journal to keep up with its goals. At the end of each day, they must get the journal signed by a parent who is required to thoroughly review their time management. At the end of the month, if the journal shows no time wasted, the student will be rewarded with $50 cash.
“Too much time is wasted, we must maximize time and be disciplined,” said Murphy. “We have to take an inventory with this notebook.”
June through August, ACT plans on having their young men go out to local businesses and shake the hands of the bosses and CEOs to get a feel of a professional setting. Financial planning is also a goal of ACT in which they will establish a basic knowledge of financial literacy and the importance of understanding the money game.
This program focuses on empowering underserved or at-risk youth. This includes students who are not doing well in school or need supervision.
Scholarships are proposed to all students who are seeking to be part of the program throughout high school. ACT offers intrigued students their first session free of charge and welcome newcomers daily.
Starting in the fall of 2012, the organization has amassed 21 partners who believe in their mission. CEO and co-founder Alex Harris said these entities, such as Art Alliance, Studio@620, the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County Schools, help ensures that “every child has a fair opportunity for his or her highest level of success.”
Student performers gave the crowd a taste of what they’ve learned and ended the morning with a group performance with Harris, who is also a national recording artist and academician.