Sunday, March 12, 2006

Young People's Theater is a hit with the City

Land of Oz: San Jose recognized Young People's Theater group at the Kirk Community Center for its dedication to youth arts and the community.

Young People's Theater is a hit with city, gets commendation By Mayra Flores De Marcotte

After 23 years of following the yellow brick road, the Young People's Theater at the Kirk Community Center has received a commendation from the Emerald City.

San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and the city recognized the theater group for its efforts and dedication to youth, arts and the community at the Feb. 7 city council meeting.

The program has been facing closure for years and every year pleads with the city to stay open, says Rosemary Marks, a Willow Glen resident and Kirk Center public relations spokeswoman for the parent support group.

In order to keep the program alive, the parents agreed to work on recovering 100 percent of production costs for the young people's theater, Marks says. The parents also agreed to increase their total parent participation requirement to 3,100 volunteer hours.

"It was a huge commitment," Marks says.

At the end of 2005, the program was at 89 percent cost recovery. Then the theater group received two grants of $5,000 each, from San Jose Councilwoman Judy Chirco and Councilman Ken Yeager. This brought the program to 100 percent cost recovery.

The commendation is a long-awaited recognition, according to parents and members of the theater group.

"Young People's Theater has given hundreds of children wonderful experiences and taught them many skills," Willow Glen parent Joan Nelson Schuller says. "It has filled a void for schools that have had drama and music programs disappear from their classrooms. It has provided an outlet for children who are looking for something besides sports as an extracurricular activity," Schuller says.

Schuller has been involved with the program for 10 years.

Along with the performing arts, the theater also involves the youth in philanthropy through canned food drives and raising money for breast cancer.

"I never felt like any of my dollars were being wasted on this program," Willow Glen parent Judy Steinberg says. "The young people employed by the director, Ms. Carole Ferris-Greer, are such good role models for my son. They have taught him so much."

The Kirk Community Center is at 1601 Foxworthy Ave. For information, call 408.723.1571.


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