A couple months ago I saw a post on Facebook (yes, much of my life starts or ends on Facebook). But this post was asking about an activity in our community education book that overlapped with school time. People were asking if it was just for home-schoolers, or if anyone had done it before and recommended that parents (gasp) pull their kids out of school for the day and a half necessary to participate. What really got my attention was all the replies. It was open to all students 3rd grade and older, and everyone who had participated HIGHLY recommended it. So we signed our 4th grader up.
It was The Young Americans workshop. If I had just seen the listing in the community education booklet, I probably would have skipped right over it. The name kind of sounds stuffy to me, like they're trying to indoctrinate young republicans or something.
Holy guacamole. I would not have been more wrong. The Young Americans have been doing workshops, presentations, and summer camps for 25 years, and they do them spectacularly well. After we signed up her, my daughter had an assembly at school that was comprised of just four of The Young Americans doing their song and dance thing. At that point, she was SO excited that we had signed her up.
The real deal started this past Sunday. The workshop ran on Sunday from 2 - 6, Monday from 8 - 6, and Tuesday from 3 - 6:30, with their presentations starting at 7pm.
I was there at the very beginning, dropping her off, and I was immediately so impressed with these college kids. We were waiting in a cafeteria until all the kids were checked in. The Young Americans were mingling, starting to learn the kids' names, and helping putting any shy or nervous youngsters at ease. These were not just 'leaders' here to work with out community's kids. These were young people who were really excited to get to know our kids, interact with them, build their confidence, and help them have a great time while integrating music and education.
Last night was finally the performance. I've got to say, my daughter was so excited after even just the first day. The performance started out with just The Young Americans, doing snippets from the history of music, movies, and musicals, with super fun singing, dancing, and choreography. The kids had gotten to know them, and were so excited to watch their favorites perform. After a 15-minute intermission, it was time for our kids to take the stage (oh! the stage itself was incredible! A HUGE floor laid out to protect the gym floor, a GIANT screen with accompanying movie/music/musical titles, and they all magically changed costumers behind the screen, full lighting and sound system - it was nuts!).
There were maybe 100 community kids at our workshop. They were broken into three groups mostly by age/grade, and all got to contribute somewhat to their groups name and moves. There were some dancers, lots of singers, and most of all, tons of fun and enthusiasm.
The kids part focused on music as a part of other areas of education, with emphasis on world languages (and several of The Young Americans were from other countries), science, math (aRHYTHMetic), and reading/language arts. The whole Young Americans program started out as trying to keep music in the schools, and their message is still the same.
Our daughter is super excited to participate in the summer camp in August, and said she also wants to host two of The Young Americans at our house for the week.
If The Young Americans come to your community, definitely check them out, and if your kids are 3rd grade or older, encourage them to get involved! Check out the website for more information about contacting them and getting them to your community. They truly provide a fantastic experience.