As Martine slipped behind the curtain, she burst with elation: “I did it!” The success was profound. “I have never seen her smile so big!” The performing arts manager beamed as she remembered this pivotal moment. Jill Streadbeck had pulled together an incredible production of Peter Pan Jr., but was faced with playing out a different scene. With students graduating and gone, she needed to immediately improvise and fill in for a part in the play, NOW. With quick inspiration, Jill gave the part to Martine, one of the girls in the Peers Academy. She had never rehearsed it…not even once. “Did you rehearse it?” Jill prompted. “No. Did you rock it? YES!”
What does it take to know a student will be up to the task? Jill Streadbeck connects with the students individually in one-to-one rehearsals, personally understanding the challenges they face. “Communication, confidence and attitude were the biggest challenges…and we overcame them all.” She guided them as they struggled with confidence, conquered their fears, and supported each other. “It amazed me how the cast came together.”
Students in the Elevate Academy achieved a depth of confidence they had never felt before, internalizing courage and determination, helping create a solid foundation for their futures. “It wasn’t always easy to practice the social skills I learned,” said Verity, a student in the Elevate Program, “but I created relationships with students I didn’t have good relationships with before. Now we’re really good friends. There were many rewards to what we did.”
As Jill watched the first rehearsal, called a stumble-through, and then the next rehearsal, the realization sparked a fire from within, “We got this!” Her excitement about the students comes from intrinsic dedication fueled by fiery hope, “When they got thrown things, they saw they could do it and rocked it when they did it!” Kindling that flame within her students she passed the torch on to them, “Telling them you have grown so much from where you were to where you are now…it’s one of the coolest things!”
As the curtain falls on this production, we remember the spectacular start with Peter Pan’s grand entrance, spectators mesmerized by the pirate ship and hearts lightened by the sweetness of Nana’s dog house. From stumble-through to standing tall with the very last curtain call, these students made that internal climb from self-conscious to self-confidence and now stand at the top of the peak of success.