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Smoke Signals Student Media

The student news site of George Rogers Clark High School

Smoke Signals Student Media

The student news site of George Rogers Clark High School

Smoke Signals Student Media

Leed’s Youth Advisory Board strides towards inclusivity

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Leeds Youth Advisory collaborates with STRIDE students at Leeds Theatre.

Community. A word known to all, but practiced by a few. A community is defined by the acceptance and encouragement between members, but through the years there has been a serious loss in the sense of cohesiveness that brings us all together.

The Leed’s Youth Advisory Board is doing its part to bring our community together.

“The Youth Advisory Board is a group of high school students from Clark and surrounding counties who share a passion for the arts and their communities,” says board president Silas Coogle. “We complete one arts-based service project per year, as we also participate in various community events.”

This year the project taken on by the members of the Youth Advisory Board is a collaboration with STRIDE to bring the childrens book Not a Box to the stage. STRIDE stands for Supporting Therapeutic Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities Everyday, and they serve individuals with learning and developmental disabilities and provide opportunities for growth and improvement.

“STRIDE is a pivotal part of our community, even if people do not think of it as such,” says board vice president Zach Ross. “Partnering with Leeds helps the community know that the people at STRIDE are capable of creating and doing amazing things. I hope people in the community do not take this for granted and truly see people with disabilities are important and contributing citizens of Winchester.”

It was STRIDE’s goal to provide outlets for development that sparked the partnership with Leeds Center for the Arts, and from there an amazing opportunity was born.

“The Youth Board hosts STRIDE members at the theater once a week,” Coogle says. “We play theater games and introduce them to acting basics like improv, scene-making, and character creation. We’re working toward a performance in which the members will use their imaginations to bring inanimate objects to life in front of a public audience.”

Not only has this collaboration produced a creative outlet, but it has also provided a source of understanding for Leeds members. This partnership has created friendships in the face of adversity.

“I have grown as a person by seeing how positive the members of STRIDE are,” says Sylvie Coogle. “No matter what, they always have a smile on their faces and have lots of energy and excitement about anything they do. It has been an amazing experience to get to know all the members and see them grow through the arts.”

As the group worked together on the show, personal growth is shown through everyone involved as excellence is pursued and limits are pushed.

“This partnership has given me a better understanding of individuals with special needs, and I have seen just how amazing and talented they can be when pushed out of their comfort zone,” says McKinley Harper. “The arts has brought a spark of understanding for all of us.”

One of the most important aspects of STRIDE is the support they offer for individuals with disabilities. Oftentimes people are denied the chance to shine due to unfair prejudices, but with the Youth Advisory Board, those stereotypes are being challenged.

“The best part of this partnership is really seeing the light that shines inside every single one of the members,” Ross says. “They are all so unapologetic and dedicated, which is extremely admirable.”

Inclusion is a gift often denied to those who are different, but the dedication and love shown from the members of STRIDE is truly inspiring.

“My favorite part of the partnership is getting to see the joy and growth that the STRIDE members bring to the stage,” says Silas Coogle. “They are always enthusiastic about their work, which is inspiring to me as an artist. Their love for acting and their growth from week to week just goes to show how big of an impact the arts can have on peoples’ lives.”

The arts are constantly evolving, but one thing stands true – the joy that it brings to those watching. Allowing opportunities for all types of people to create is a vital part of keeping the arts alive in the community.”

“The biggest outlook is truly just being able to help initiate artistic abilities within people who haven’t had lots of exposure to doing art themselves,” says Ross. “The members of STRIDE always come to watch our shows, but seeing them partake in theater just makes my heart even happier.”

Leeds Center for the Arts debuted their show Not a Box in collaboration with STRIDE on May 15. This was a show filled with out of the box themes and imaginative settings.

“The bridge that we are creating between Leeds Center for the Arts and the STRIDE program,” Silas Coogle says, “will help the community to realize that all people, regardless of their background or ability level, can express themselves through the arts.”

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Caroline Harper
Caroline Harper, Multimedia Staff
Hi, my name is Caroline Harper and I am a part of the Smoke Signals multimedia staff at GRC! I am the number one fan of school food and you will find me in line for school lunch every day. I love to sleep, and my favorite game to play is to wake up as late as possible and see if I can still make it to school on time; somehow I still don’t have a tardy. Some things I hate are math, any room over the temperature of 67 degrees, and slow walkers (I will run you over). On that note some things I love are reading, my friends, and writing, which I can’t wait to show through Smoke Signals!

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