Broadway Stars Motivate City’s At-risk Kids

By Kristina Skorbach, Epoch Times
December 17, 2013 Updated: December 17, 2013

NEW YORK—Over a thousand kids from underprivileged schools in the city were treated to a Broadway performances on Tuesday at the Salvation Army Centennial Theatre on West 14th Street.

The show, called Taste of Broadway, was a reward for the children’s good attendance and grades and an incentive to continue working hard at school.

“It’s so wonderful,” Callahan said, looking out at the kids in the audience.

Children from mostly Queens and Brooklyn attended the show, hosted by Nanci Callahan in collaboration with the West Side Cultural Center and the city’s education department.

DeAngelis, the casting director, said that seeing young Broadway stars like Raymond Luke Jr., 13, from “Motown,” shows students that with hard work and a good attitude, people can achieve their dreams.

“Before they got their breaks on Broadway, they were just going to school and being kids with a dream too,” DeAngelis said about the performers. “What separates them is the opportunity.”

The West Side Cultural Center and the State Department of Education, introduced the Attendance Incentive Dropout Program (AIDP), some 15 years ago. The program has since helped over 40,000 students to improve in school.

Programs like AIDP are especially important in neighborhoods where more than 50 percent of the city’s children from poor families don’t graduate high school.

Half an hour to the show’s start, teachers from PS 154 in Harlem ushered in children from fourth and fifth grades. The students, who showed significant improvements in school, filled the front rows of the theatre.

Special education teacher T. Perez who supervised the children, said that his school introduced certain programs to motivate children. For example, a reward program that not only gives credit for those who do well academically, but also the students who try to do well in terms of attendance and behavior.

“Once they work on character traits and do their homework, and their schoolwork, they get what’s called school stars,” Perez said. Using the stars, kids can then purchase things at the school store, which includes items as diverse as erasers to video games.