This back to school season is the first for the North Texas Performing Arts Academy, a program launched to give home schooled and online students a place to pursue their passion during the day.
While homeschooling her kids for more than a decade, Deanna Stone searched for day programs to help them pursue performing arts. Aside from co-ops, the options were limited. That’s why she and other parents helped North Texas Performing Arts launch an academy conservatory to help kids focused on a career in performing arts build the foundation they need.
“This is just an opportunity for them to really invest into things they love, be able to learn character and dedication and determination through the performing arts of the stage, which is just a fabulous opportunity that’s often removed from public schools,” said managing director Deanna Stone.
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Its inaugural class consists of 36 students, half of which participate full time.
Those students start their day in the “core café” where a coach helps them through their own curriculum, whether they’re home schooled or participating in an online course through a local district.
Post lunch, the day turns to the stage. Students take courses in acting, dance, voice, video and film and technical theater. They also have the ability to earn certificates for those ready to start a professional career all from courses taught during the school day.
It just makes sense for students like freshman Abigail Hardy who dreams of one day working for Disney.
“In my public school I wasn’t very focused on my work, because I was always focused on ‘I have tech week or I have rehearsals.’ But here I don’t have to worry because I’m surrounded by people who are focused on the same thing as me,” said Hardy.
Similarly, sophomore Alexander Duva switched to online coursework a couple of years ago.
“I don’t have to spend 7 hours a day working on busy work and stuff like that,” said Duva.
Instead he spends more time pursuing his passion, learning every facet of performing arts to better his chances of getting a job post-graduation.
It’s a school day schedule that’s also making the day more manageable for families in a world of over-scheduling.
“Before my mom worked late, so I couldn’t get private lessons or singing lessons or stuff like this, so this is a way to do that and it’s really been helpful,” said Conor McAleer.
That's a huge part of why organizers believes the program works.
“The goal was truly to be able to put family back in family and allow you to do your academic study, get your homework done, participate in your rehearsals, private lessons, whatever that be… and then go home at 5:00 or 5:30 and have dinner instead of being rushed off to another rehearsal,” said Stone.
But for many students, they'll tell you the biggest advantage is being surrounded by other kids focused on big dreams. And whether those dreams take them to the stage or evolve over time, Stone believes the program will help them find success.
“What you develop here is not just for the performing arts and the stage. That’s obviously a direction you may choose, but the discipline you’re going to develop here as well as all of the characteristics you’re going to develop in our program, you’re going to be able to invest in pretty much anything you do. This is just an avenue and a bridge to get you to whatever success looks like for you out there,” said Stone.