Students at Fort St. James Secondary School have been able to follow their hearts in the arts.
The Youth Empowerment in the Arts Project continues to be a huge success, now in its second year.
And it only seems to be growing.
“We now offer two programs,” said Shauna Hesse, grant writer for the District of Fort St. James.
“The original theatre program is offered with 15 students currently taking part, and this year the students can take a digital media program which is so exciting. There are 25 students enrolled in that program right now.”
Hesse could not be more thrilled with how much student interest the program has received as well as all of the community support that has helped get the program running.
“It was the SONAR group at Fort St. James Secondary school who voiced their opinion. They wanted to see more opportunities in the arts in the community,” Hesse said.
Nak’azdli Youth Council, Music Makers, FSJ District, Nak’azdli Band, Theatre Northwest, the Community Arts Council, local and regional arts organizations, the public education system and various businesses also played a vital role in bringing the project to life.
“We have funding for up to three years now,” Hesse said. “And my role is to work towards long term sustainability.”
The Vancouver Foundation has given a grant in support of the project and funds have also been received from the BC Arts Youth Engagement Program and the Community Arts Council of Fort St. James.
Just recently, Nak’azdli Whut’en contributed $10,000 to the project.
“We hope that the project is a great success and look forward to seeing the end productions,” Nak’azdli Chief, Alec McKinnon said.
Through the project, students will have the opportunity to learn from professional musicians, create their own projects and perform their own creations once completed.
The project also allows students the opportunity to earn elective credits towards graduation.
“We are so lucky to have Lauren Brotman from Theatre Northwest work with the kids. To have a professional artist come here, it’s really amazing,” Hesse said.
Music Makers contributes the learning space and the Arts Council continues to coordinate the program.
“And the school has been so cooperative in having the kids attend,” Hesse said.
According to Hesse, the program has now evolved into a mentoring project as well because of its success.
This once uncertain pilot project has now branched off into many directions and a youth led, Arts Strategy is currently in the works.
Hesse says this will allow young people to step up and help make a difference in the community.
“The Youth Empowerment in the Arts Project is all about community working together,” Hesse said.
“To see what these kids can create. It’s amazing to be able to see it and support it and we should be supporting it. These kids are our future.”