After school arts program empowers youth

‘It’s an all-encompassing program,’ says instructor Keli Dunn

A new after school program is coming to Sooke this fall, which will allow children of all ages and from all walks of life to learn about fine art and theatre production.

Amber Academy is holding classes for all students in grades K-12 and runs from 3:30 to 5 pm on Mondays and Fridays.

“It’s an all-encompassing program,” said Keli Dunn, “And I am starting with Sooke but my vision is to be able to have this type program in other communities as well.”

Unlike other arts programs, the cost is has an annual fee of $50 for a single child family, $75 for multi-child families, and the students are allowed to attend as little or as many classes as they choose.

“It needs to be affordable for families,” said founder Keli Dunn.

“I think too often there are so many families and children that miss out on arts programs because they can’t afford it. I think how a parent or family chooses to manage their finances shouldn’t impact whether a child can participate in a program.”

There are a variety of classes students can participate in, but all are art forms that can go in to creating a production.

The first is split up in to two parts, one being acting and the other being show choir and dancing for production.

Another class is called sets and props design, which will be for kids who want to learn painting, sculpting and drawing and will be able to participate in the production by doing the set design.

The third class is costumes and fashion design, and allow students to express creativity through making wearable art and building the costumes.

The last class is for technical theatre and will let students to learn about sound, lighting, and special effects for theatre production.

Dunn explained that last two classes are directed towards older students in grades five to 12, but all class ages are just recommendations. The acting and set design classes happen on Mondays at Journey Middle school, and the show choir, fashion design, and technical theatre classes will take place at EMCS on Fridays.

Sarah Wilson, instructor for the costume and fashion design class, said she and Dunn have known each other for six years and both shared a vision on empowering youth by using expressive arts.

“There are a large number of children that don’t fit in somewhere. Maybe they aren’t the best athlete, or maybe they don’t have a lot of friends, but this program is for absolutely everybody. No one gets turned away, and no person is excluded,” said Wilson. “It’s just a fun and healthy activity for them to participate in.”

She explained that towards the end of April they are going to have a collaborative production with a theme of empowerment, where all the students from each of the classes can showcase what they’ve been working on in various configurations.

“I think there’s going to be some pretty amazing things come out of this,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the children come up with.”

Dunn said there will also be snacks and drinks provided for the students at each of the classes.

“There’s too many kids that go to school without lunches or breakfast and I think by making sure the kids have a healthy snack after school it’s something we can do to help out families in need as well,” said Dunn.

This will be the first year Amber Academy is operating, and Dunn explained that she decided to put the program together last year following the tragic death of her sister, Amber.

Dunn said her sister was a kid that had a lot of challenges growing up, including a learning disability, which led to her struggling socially.

“I think that would resonate with a lot of families today because so many kids are being diagnosed with ADHD, and somewhere along the autism spectrum. When kids start to realize that these struggles are affecting them, it affects them emotionally, mentally and socially, and they can become ostracized by their peers,” she said.

She said this is exactly what happened to Amber, and by the time she was in high school she was heavily involved in drugs and alcohol which carried on into her adulthood, leaving her with a difficult life.

“If she had had the right person in her life at the right time, things could have been so different,” said Dunn. “So this program is really about building up the kids’ self-esteem and giving them courage to realize they have something more to contribute.”

If your child would like to join Amber Academy contact Keli Dunn at 250-888-1921, or visit their website at amberacademy.ca.

dawn.gibson@sookenewsmirror.com

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