It’s a Wednesday evening at C.T. Sewell Elementary, a Title 1 (low-income neighborhood) designated school in Henderson, Nevada. Inside the school’s multipurpose room a group of 15 students is gathered in a circle laughing and juggling as a coach tells them not to give up no matter how many times they drop their juggling equipment – because practice makes perfect! These students belong to an amazing program called Social CirKISH, a youth development organization that teaches the circus arts to improve the lives of disenfranchised youth in the Las Vegas Valley.
The students at C.T. Sewell elementary are amongst the 220 students that participate in the Social CirKISH program every week.
Fast forward to the next Thursday morning, and you will find the CirKISH coaches working with a youth offender court at the LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada. Marc, a formerly incarcerated youth offender, laughs and walks proudly on stilts as he crosses the circus classroom. He is impressed with himself, and you can tell his self-confidence has improved over the last few months since he has joined the program. “That’s great Marc, next time, maybe we can have you juggle as you walk the stilts!” shouts one of the supportive coaches. Marc is excited because months ago he didn’t think as highly of himself and never thought he could perform such impressive feats.
With Social CirKISH, students are encouraged to express themselves, increasing their self-awareness and acceptance while interacting and participating with their peers in several activities that support and require teamwork and collaboration. The program is offered in a variety of Clark County Schools, in addition to foster care facilities, special education programs, after-school programs, and community centers.
The program has been serving youth in Las Vegas since 2013 and has since improved the lives of over 2000 participants!
CirKISH is famously known for its summer circus intensive, a 10-week program that invites 30 of its most dedicated students to train in a summer camp that culminates in a professional circus production performed onstage at UNLV’s Ham Hall! Many of the students partaking in this production have been with the program for over 5years. These youth are hooked on the joy and confidence they feel from showing their friends and family the skills they acquired over the many years they participate in the program. Nothing is better for a child’s self-esteem than hearing heartfelt applause from an audience as a reward for their hard work and dedication!
After many years of serving youth in the valley, CirKISH realized they wanted to do more to honor the commitment of their dedicated students. With the help of the Public Education Foundation and the generous support of the KISH foundation, CirKISH now awards scholarships to eligible students that commit to the program during the entirety of their high school years. The scholarship has been awarded to a half dozen youth, including first-generation college students. The scholarship is renewable for up to 4 years. Most recipients make a point of coming back to Las Vegas during their summers off from college to participate in the summer production and inspire their peers.
Students that have been with the program for over five years can graduate to junior coaching positions. This allows senior participants to pass on skills they have learned to the next generation of Social CirKISH participants.
To learn more about CirKISH and find out how you can help or take a look at their upcoming family-friendly productions, visit their website at CirKISH.org