I would like to welcome you all back to a new school year after a wonderful milestone anniversary last year for ENACT. Wow! Over 30 years and going strong. With your help, we raised money to provide healthy after-school snacks for our students last year. We celebrated the students who make our program shine and showed appreciation for the parents, teachers and staff who help our students every day. Our year culminated in our annual spring performance of Show UP!, featuring students from our year-long dropout prevention program and led by our team of professional actors and drama therapists.
As most of you already know, ENACT uses the power of drama to inspire compassion and empathy in youth as they learn critical social and emotional skills. Our dedicated staff members emphasize self-awareness as a first step to behavior change and positive decision making, both in school and life. This past Show UP! highlighted content generated by the students and focused on the overwhelming issues that impact our youth in today’s political climate. With their emphasis on safety and resilience during such unsure times, the students inspired all those in attendance to emulate their sense of hope and strength.
Show UP! was introduced by Council Member Daniel Dromm; Hawk Newsome, President of Black Lives Matter Greater New York Chapter; and Cynthia Germanotta, Co-Founder of Born This Way Foundation (Lady Gaga’s mother).
Helping students identify critical life issues and learn to voice their concerns in an empowered manner align perfectly with the Born This Way mission. That’s why we were thrilled when, after seeing Show UP!, the Born This Way team asked us to be a featured partner in their 21 Days to Be Kind Challenge, which encourages all participants to practice an act of kindness daily for the first three weeks of September. Check it out on our social media and below in “What’s New”! You might just want to join the Challenge…
At the end of last school year, we honored ten senior teaching artists who have worked with me for over 20 years! Our roster of dedicated facilitators also includes 50 highly trained teaching artists and drama therapists. We are delighted that most of this team returns to start a new school year with us this fall. I am also happy to announce that Greg Cox joined our team this summer, as an experienced COO who is eager to help us set goals that ensure ENACT’s mission reaches more students and continues to have the transformative impact that will always be our hallmark.
Speaking of goals, I am proud that ENACT reached and exceeded most of last year’s targets, including an increased number of teacher and parent workshops, the creation of parent and teacher advisory teams and training a new cohort of teaching artists with an emphasis on understanding and addressing trauma as it is expressed through behavior. We aimed to spread our expertise beyond our schools through publications, institutes, and conferences both nationally and internationally. This year alone we have been invited to present at 8 conferences, hosted 4 specialized Training Institutes, facilitated multiple New York City district-wide workshops, and have two new articles in-review for peer reviewed journals.
So now what? Well, our current political climate does not seem to have helped improve student learning. Those who are already marginalized demonstrate that they feel less safe and protected from their already precarious living situations. Our students face trauma ranging from neighborhood violence to homelessness to bullying of all sorts. Teachers report that students’ behavior interferes with their own sense of safety. They need more classroom management tools, and guns are not the answer! The good news is that teachers, some traumatized themselves from the feeling of burnout and overwhelm, can learn tools and gain the support they need with ongoing training while simultaneously having fun and tapping into their own creativity.
Our plans for this year include:
- Finding new ways to expand nationally and internationally to support teachers and students through new uses of technology.
- Updating our curriculum with a focus on current issues such as cyber-bullying, diversity/acceptance issues, and violence prevention.
- Publishing additional journal articles and resources with accessible tools.
Finally, I am always reminded of the many challenges that can fall back into our students’ laps as the school year begins. I know we will all continue to find ways to spread the message of creating safe and supportive classrooms. We care about (and dare I say “love”) our youth, which keeps us all going. I am proud of our community and our belief that helping others can only mean helping ourselves. We look forward to connecting with each of you to continue to make a dramatic difference in our students’ lives.