Austin youth participate in “Summertime” performance

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Austin youth showcased their acting, spoken word and acrobat skills at Circle Urban Ministries’ annual “Summertime” performance May 19.

“Choices” was the night’s theme, which included the story of a young man who has to make a choice.

“He has to make a decision about joining a gang or doing what’s right,” said the organization’s performing arts director Paul Canada.

“That choice becomes a little complicated, because his plan has issues and turmoil, struggle, challenge as well as his friend, who has to deal with her own personal issues,” Canada said to the packed auditorium at Fenwick High School, 505 Washington Blvd. in Oak Park.

Youth in Circle Urban Ministries’ LIFT Performing Arts program practiced during the school year to prepare for the show, Bob Mead, development director of Circle Urban Ministries, told AustinTalks during intermission.

Through arts and performance, LIFT aims to empower youth and provide them with tools for life.

“I think the kids are doing an awesome job,” Mead said. “That’s the point of our performance arts program,  to challenge the kids, not just to learn a new skill, but to learn it at a very high level.”

Mead said the youth are learning the “team concept.”

“It’s a great experience for them and for us as an audience, but developmentally for the kids,” he said.

The Rev. Rob Stevenson of the Rock of our Salvation Church, 118 N. Central Ave., which partners with Circle Urban Ministries, attended, calling the event a “transformation for children.”

“Children, who (are) in our community, the Austin community, didn’t really have a chance to understand what the kind of arts we have and are available,” he said.

Art helps students socially and academically, Stevenson said.

The program is, “helping them understand how to integrate the talents and the gifts they have,” he said. “They are very disciplined as well as in tune in what they are calling on each other to do — work hand in hand and teamwork.”

Circle Urban Ministries has served the Austin community for more than 35 years. It’s developed a three-faceted approach to bringing transformation to the community by shaping the future with mentoring and college readiness programs and the performing arts program, among others.

The organization also helps to run food pantries and other intervention services while establishing nurturing relationships with local non-profits.

Now that this year’s Summertime performance is over, the youth in the performing arts program will start work for next year’s production, Mead said.

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