Future Generation Mentorship program gives First Stage students “all access”

by Jennifer Hubbartt

In 2015, First Stage launched the Future Generation Mentorship Program, encouraging Theater Academy student participation with a focus on its philosophy of teaching “life skills through stage skills,” further cultivating the next generation of artists, arts patrons and supporters.

Each year, invited students – or “mentees” – are paired with a mentor who will guide the mentee through all opportunities offered by First Stage. Mentees receive an “all access pass” to First Stage programs and events, Academy classes, tickets to performances, coaching, and more. Twelve mentor and mentee pairs currently participate in the program.

“The relationships and learning opportunities are truly special,” said Jennifer Adams, Academy director and director of the Mentorship Program. “This individualized and supportive program engages not only the young person in a deeper relationship with First Stage, but also engages the First Stage staff in meaningful connections with our students.”

Kamani, a 12-year-old Academy student, is part of the inaugural class of the Mentorship Program, paired with Lindsey Abendschein, First Stage creative services manager, as his mentor.

“The Mentorship Program helped me become even more involved in the arts,” said Kamani. “My favorite part of the program has been getting to know the other mentees, who enjoy the same things that I do.”

“Being a mentor is a great opportunity to be more involved with First Stage,” said Abendschein. “Kamani is an amazing person. He is so talented and passionate about what he does, that I always walk away feeling inspired about my own work,” Abendschein continued.

This season, the Mentorship Program participants have taken part in several exclusive activities. Earlier this season, the mentors and mentees held a “V. I. Peach” party in conjunction with a performance of Roald Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. Mentors and mentees had a small gathering at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, saw a performance of the play together, and received a backstage tour of the Todd Wehr Theater.

“The V.I.Peach party was a great bonding experience, allowing the mentees to meet each other and celebrate new friendships,” said Adams. “It was also the first step in our efforts to help these young people see themselves on our stages, removing the feeling of ‘that’s impossible.’ Providing these students with extra support will encourage them to take every opportunity First Stage has to offer.”

In conjunction with LILLY’S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE, mentors and mentees were invited to attend select rehearsals, receive a tour of First Stage’s costume shop, and learn more about the play’s scenery, lights and costumes with First Stage’s design supervisor. The experiences will culminate when mentors and mentees and their families will attend a performance and participate in a special talkback with Director Marcella Kearns.

“The mentorship program has instilled confidence and acceptance in my children,” said Mercedes Loomans, whose two children participate in the Mentorship Program. “First Stage has welcomed my children and treated them as one of their own. Taylor and Michael continue to grow and thrive in this environment.”

In addition to the Future Generation Mentorship Program, First Stage Theater Academy offers a variety of opportunities for its students, including the Student Advisory Board, Writers Group, and Internships. For more details, visit www.FirstStage.org/students or email academy@firststage.org.

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