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  • Kristen Rea

Their Place in this World.

Meet Damian, age 9

Damian isn't so sure about standing in lines. He understands the concept of lines, and he certainly uses them as a "home base," but like a 3 year old with a crayon and a coloring book, Damian takes a more avant-garde approach to standing in them. Chairs also pose a creative challenge. It's not that sitting in them without moving isn't a possibility, but Damian ain't got time for that. There's more to life than a stationary butt and Damian has the fidgety choreography to prove it. However, Damian is also a distraction. A distraction often tamed with Ritalin rather than Rond de Jambe. So the question remains, will Damian's cat like muscle control help him Shuffle Off To Buffalo or get shuffled to the Principal's office thrice a week?

Damian has a place in this world.

Meet Jenna, age 15

Jenna is one of those "popular girls," and she knows it. There's something about perfect hair at the age of 16 that is worthy of worship, yet more divisive for a high school student body than grading on a curve or which neighborhood you live in. But Jenna has something worthy of actual praise. Jenna has an incredible voice, a voice made for the school's glee club. Just in case you live under a rock or have somehow managed to avoid hearing anything about one of FOX's most popular shows, glee clubs and other high school vocal ensembles do not always propel one into the same social circles as the varsity cheer squad. This is good for Jenna and this will be great for Jenna in ten years when she realizes that glee club helped her build meaningful friendships with a band of misfits who in turn grew to respect her for more than her Instagram account. Whether or not Jenna goes on to sing in her church choir and local karaoke bar or wins American Idol, Jenna got more out of high school than cutest couple with the quarterback. She found herself and learned the value of making friends based on the content of their character. Reconnecting with Jenna at her high school reunion will be a pleasure, not a #eyeroll.

Jenna has a place in this world.

Meet Samantha, age 13

Samantha is a bright girl. She will probably go on to a great college, have a successful career, and nobody will ever say anything but positive things about the girl who appeared to be the perfect student. But at the same time nobody really knows Samantha. Even Samantha doesn't know Samantha. The consummate wallflower, Samantha may be doing everything right on paper, respectively and passively hoping for recognition, yet when her name is called 8 times at the award ceremony the applause serves primarily to cover up a sea of parents and students asking each other, "Who's that?" However, Samantha has a secret weapon capable of breaking down not only her own self imposed limits and fears of standing out, but also clearing out the fog of mystery surrounding and hiding a lovely young woman. It's cylindrical like a light saber, it's sound flies faster than Superman, and the secret piece that enables it's magic to reach full potency was harvested from a bamboo forest from which only the most highly trained ninja's emerge. The key to unlocking Samantha is... drum roll please... a Clarinet.

Samantha has a place in this world.

Meet Ben, age 17

Ben is 7. Well technically he's 17, but you'd never know from his propensity for poop jokes and naive fashion statements. He has more charisma than Stephen Colbert at an RNC fundraiser and always has a girlfriend, despite being a pimply brace-face. Unfortunately, Ben's ability to command a crowd knows no bounds. Classrooms don't come with a set of stage hands to pull him off-stage with a giant hook every time he interrupts his teacher's cell membrane lesson with "That's what she said." It's funny though, Ben's failures as an audience member always seem to be forgiven when the roles are reversed and his comedic timing earns him an A+ in Theater.

Ben has a place in this world.

Theater freaks, band dorks, choir nerds, and dance divas exist in every school whether that school has performing arts programs for them or not. The only question, then, is will they be given the opportunity to discover those those qualities and turn them into strengths, or not.

It's on us to invest in arts education, or the kid who really really really loves green will remain a class-clown nightmare, instead of an improv theater savant, the shy girl in the corner will never find confidence through the clarinet, the popular girl with the voice will never learn to love the awkward Gleeks, and the kid who can't sit still will end up forcibly medicated instead of earning a ticket to Vegas from Mary Murphy.

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