PACT promotes performing arts

ENCINITAS — Students on summer vacation are being recruited to serve as peer mentors for children, teens and young adults at Positive Action Community Theatre’s inclusive theater and dance workshops. The program promotes self-esteem, cooperation, creativity and fitness by bringing together students without disabilities, with those that have conditions such as cerebral palsy, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism.

Volunteers are paired with participants to promote an informal camaraderie as both groups study the performing arts together.

“Because of the isolation that a disability too often creates, or due to the nature of their disability, these life skills were often not learned,” PACT Executive Director Kathryn Campion said. “This lack has created havoc in their social and academic lives. PACT has found a way to fill this gap while providing them with friendship, community and an opportunity to develop their performing arts abilities.”

Tessa Martin, a junior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, with be joining other teens this summer as volunteers at Positive Action Community Theatre’s inclusive theater and dance workshops. The program pairs students without disabilities, with those that have conditions such as cerebral palsy, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism. Courtesy photo

PACT was founded by Campion and William Simonson in 2008 originally as Encinitas Community Theatre with the goal of using theater arts to teach life skills to low-income children and adults. After it opened, Campion and Simonson received a disproportionately high response for performing arts instruction from parents of children with disabilities. This prompted the name change to Positive Action Community Theatre.

This summer PACT will offer several summer workshops at Dance North County, 535 Encinitas Boulevard, Suite 100.

Goldmine Inclusive Theater and Dance workshops for teens and adults with, and without, disabilities will be in session from July 14 to Sept. 1. Children’s workshops are held from 1:30-2:30 p.m., teen/adult 2:30-4 p.m. and teen/adult dance (salsa, country, hip hop, Motown) from 4-5 p.m.

Take the Stage performing arts workshops, which debut this summer, bring together a group of adults with, and without, disabilities, into the community to perform music, dance and theater. The workshop runs from July 16 to Sept. 2, from 2-3:30 p.m.

Patrick Martin, who enters San Diego State in August after graduating from Canyon Crest Academy, and sister, Tessa, now a junior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, volunteered this past school year at PACT to earn community credit. Tessa enjoyed the experience so much that she will be returning for an eight-week session this summer.

“I’ve gained a greater understanding of how having an accepting environment can be liberating,” she said. “It’s conducive to everyone’s happiness. The participants have taught me as much as I’ve taught them. It’s been wonderful.”

Tessa explained that one of the benefits of the classes is that participants are involved in games where they experience social interaction and learn how to understand social cues.

“Basically, they are not completely adept at social interactions,” she said. “Some are just shy.

Volunteers aren’t told what their diagnosis is. We’re just there to treat everyone the same.”

She added, “It’s just a fun class. They may have issues, but they are just good people.”

PACT is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Programs are sponsored by Area Board 13 of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, by the Puffin Foundation, and by the California Arts Council and National Arts and Disability Center at the University of California Los Angeles.

Cost of the eight-week sessions are priced between $150 and $175. Scholarships are available.

For information about volunteer opportunities and enrollment, call (760) 815-8512, email info@pacthouse.org or visit pacthouse.org.

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