When they visited Chicago's Broadway Playhouse, twin brothers Jalan and Jaymel Brackens received a preview of the exciting arts experience that awaits their classmates this fall.
The boys were there to see "Charlotte's Web", the latest children's production from The Emerald City Theatre – a local nonprofit that seeks to inspire a love of reading among low-income students through donations of books and theatrical productions. Jalan and Jaymel represented Crown Academy, one of 21 CPS schools to receive One Fund Awards from Emerald City in 2014.
"The boys were thrilled to attend the event, and even more excited to ride on the elevator and walk around Water Tower Place," said Martha Williams, the school counselor from Crown who applied for the One Fund Award. "This was their first trip to the Magnificent Mile, and they truly enjoyed the performance. They were proud of themselves for being chosen to represent Crown."
In her application for the One Fund Award, Martha noted that many of her students come from low-income households where access to literature is a challenge. "The One Fund program offers so many of our students an opportunity to see wonderful literacy-based productions and delve deeper into the pages of stories they have heard", she wrote.
As a result of this application, 177 of Crown's students will take a field trip this fall to see a stage production at the Apollo Theater. Such field trips are one of three ways Emerald City provides arts education to schools, the others being in-school theater performances and week-long theater residencies. With the support of their partner, KPMG, Emerald City will also provide new books to over 6,000 CPS students in 2014.
"The book that One Fund provides supplies such joy, for it's a book each child can call his or her own," said Martha. "What better way for our students to get excited about reading then by owning their very own book?"
This year, Emerald City also presented the CPS Arts Department with the inaugural One Fund Arts Education Award, recognizing the District's commitment to providing a high-quality arts education to every student. This award comes on the heels of CPS' new Arts Education Plan, which provides sweeping new vision for making the arts a core subject for students in grades Pre-K–12.
For three years, Emerald City Theatre has been bringing free books and free theater productions to CPS, positively impacting the lives of over 16,000 children. In 2014 alone, they will provide these experiences to 6,357 students in 21 schools, inspiring a love of reading through play.
"Our One Fund Committee reviewed 84 applications representing 55,000 CPS students," said Karen Cardarelli, Executive Director and cofounder of Emerald City Theatre. "The 21 winning schools are an impressive bunch who conveyed extraordinary dedication and passion and are committed to improving literacy among their students."
For Crown Academy, receiving the One Fund Award means a chance to further its overall mission, which is celebrating literacy across all content areas.
"As the school counselor, I am so very grateful for the opportunity our entire primary population will have to see a stage production and receive a new book," said Martha Williams. "It is a pleasure to work with an organization that strongly supports literacy and wants to inspire early learners through play and reading."