Boost to arts programs enhances Everett High School's curriculum
After receiving a federal magnet grant in August to make its visual and performing arts programs more attractive, Everett is capitalizing on the opportunity.
The school's first full-length play since receiving the grant, "You Can't Take it With You," ran Friday through Saturday.
Everett's been known for arts programs for a long time, but the "magnet" status will "kick it up a couple notches," said Sally Potter, the school's magnet program coordinator.
"More people are excited about it because we don't feel we can't have something because we don't have the money," said Angela Cooper, an Everett junior who played Penny Sycamore in the play.
Stephanie Eubank, a senior who played lead character Alice Sycamore, said a number of students who attended Friday night's show weren't interested in plays. They came because the school's magnet status raised their interest in the department.
All of Lansing's high schools now have a magnet component, with a different focus at each school, such as international business or music.
The schools have small learning communities smaller schools within the schools to give students more focus, Potter said. At Everett, the program is called the Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School.
Michelle Rountree, a drama teacher at Everett and the play's director, said the improvements in the programs help develop students' talents.
"It's set up to give kids a focus before college," she said.
Rountree said a lot of students, including transfers and home-schooled students, go to Everett specifically for the arts program.
Cooper said she was home-schooled until this year. She said she originally planned to go to Holt High School, but decided to go to Everett after receiving encouragement to join the theater department.
"We've always heard that Everett had a good performing arts program," Cooper said. "I'm glad we are (a magnet); we get more funding. We get a better stage, accessories and props."
Also, the grant funds technical classes so that students can get hands-on experience building sets and learning lighting techniques.
Jim Allen teaches two of these classes.
"When I got here, there wasn't a hammer or a screwdriver," he said. Allen started teaching this fall after spending years on the road as a lighting designer, production manager and stage manager for professional theater and dance companies.
He works with students through the design process and construction, but said the set was "pretty much all kid-done."
"The experience of theater gives you an additional facet," Allen said. "You'll still know how to build and craft. All have a spin-off. Same with acting having that background helps you in other things."
On opening night, Potter was in Everett's auditorium as the group prepared for the show.
"The kids are doing it," she said. "I haven't found an adult yet."
Eubank, who will study acting at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City next year, said she is happy Everett got the grant because of the opportunities for students.
"The arts are something that runs the entire world," Eubank said. "You have to have that basic training. It gives you a glimpse before you have to decide that's what you want before you get out there."