Superheroes Helping Superheroes: Shelter Kids Shine, Thanks to TSSF!
“Having something like Brooklyn Children’s Theatre makes you forget that you’re in a shelter – it makes you feel like you’re a part of the outside again. People think that if you’re in a shelter, you don’t have any talent, or you’re not capable of doing anything positive – it’s a serious stereotype [and] it affects kids really hard. BCT shows that that is not true. When the kids are on the stage, they’re all performing at the same level because BCT welcomes kids from everywhere. When the kids are on stage, you can’t tell who’s who. The children are all treated the same, they all have equal opportunity.” – Oasis Parent
Last month, Brian Stevens met with Amy White Graves, Executive Director and co-founder of the Brooklyn Children’s Theatre, a non-profit dedicated to bringing together children from diverse backgrounds to learn and grow through the collaborative art of musical theatre. One of the ways they accomplish this is through their Oasis program, providing young students in family shelters with opportunities to learn the art of musical theater through the aid of scholarships, transportation – and even food. Most importantly, Oasis gives these children, who face extraordinary challenges in their daily lives, a unique opportunity to nurture their dreams in an environment that builds their confidence and skills through support and friendship.
Through BCT’s connections, Oasis students have received numerous collateral benefits as well, just from being part of a caring and altruistic community of individuals. The kids have received free eye glasses and dental work and free tutoring and help with their middle school and college applications. They’ve gone to the beach for the first time and learned to swim at the Y. They’ve even had Christmas wishes fulfilled, and received Easter baskets and back-to-school supplies.
Antoinette and her children are among the families BCT has helped. Blind and disabled, Antoinette has been in the shelter system for at least 10 years.
According to Amy,
“Her two children were our first Oasis students and have grown so much since we first met them 3 years ago! From BCT connections, both children were able to change public schools and are now guaranteed a stellar education through 12th grade. Nicholas (age 12) has written two plays for us, originated roles in three musicals, and is now interning for our younger students. He has grown into a role of leadership and responsibility where he is thriving. Leeanne (age 10) has accelerated five reading levels and is receiving incredible support for her learning disabilities in her new school. At BCT, she performed in five musicals and made friends that have taken her to camp in the country of Vermont where, she told her mom, she was in more danger of being run over by a horse than a car. A first for her!
We are delighted to welcome 16 children from two family shelters into our spring production classes. Being part of a musical theatre production does so much for a child, no matter where they come from. They learn how to take risks, how to work as a team, how to value each other for one another’s strengths. They realize the importance of showing up for their cast mates, and that their presence matters.
And when you put children from both family shelters and Brownstone Brooklyn together in the same project, the achievement gap lowers. The children empathize better and learn to respect those who are different from themselves.
Our hope is that the children from our productions will become the next generation of change-makers and creators. Thank you so much for joining our theatrical family to help us fulfill our mission.”
Thank you, Amy and everyone at BCT – especially the Oasis kids. You are all superheroes, and the Stevens Family Foundation is proud to welcome you into our family!