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Donations At Work: City Youth Academy

The City Youth Academy builds on a long tradition of mentorship and youth engagement at Soulpepper. The City Youth Academy offers six weeks of intensive performance training with Soulpepper Artists to a group of young people (ages 16-19) from across Toronto. As integrated members of the company, each City Youth Academy Artist is paired with an Artist Mentor from the Soulpepper artistic ensemble. The participants are offered high-level, rigorous performance skills training and artistic development.

The City Youth Academy breaks ground by giving these young artists payment equivalent to a summer job over the six week period, ensuring that any young person has the opportunity to participate regardless of their financial circumstance.

“I wish I knew about Soulpepper programs sooner. Young humans need to know that the arts are just as important as the academics. Soulpepper has been in my life for a long time. I am very thankful.” – An anonymous 2017 City Youth Academy Participant

 This program is designed to inspire personal creativity, artistic discipline, and support young artists in the development of their own artistic practice.

City Youth Academy artists participate in various forms of performance training including theatre creation, music, stage combat, dance, scene study, writing, and design. Together they developed a final presentation to share with family and friends.

By offering this program, Soulpepper gives youth the opportunity to explore their creativity and build confidence. After they complete the program, they carry these unique learnings and experiences forward, sharing them with their family, friends, and neighbours.

“Not only was it a great experience, but for me, was life-changing. As someone who had very limited resources and connections to programs like this, the City Youth Academy served as an unbelievable opportunity to do and learn more about what I love (theatre).”  – Yujin, age 19, a 2017 City Youth Academy Participant

The City Youth Academy is generously supported by Scotiabank and the R. Howard Webster Foundation. For more information about the year-round, free, youth programming offered at Soulpepper, please visit soulpepper.ca/youth.

Staff Profile: Winnie Nwakobi, Coordinator of Community Programming

How long have you have worked at Soulpepper, and how would you describe your role?

I have worked at Soulpepper as the Coordinator of Community Programming for 3 months now.  However, I have been a part of the Soulpepper community since 2010. I was a participant in the 2010 Youth Mentorship  Program and continued as an Alumni Programs Participant, a Program Assistant, and a Youth Link Artist.

As the Community Programming Coordinator, I work with the team to run all of the youth outreach and access programs at Soulpepper, as well as programs in schools and the local community. I also facilitate student group bookings for Soulpepper performances. Working in the administration here in my various capacities has been exciting and dynamic. I am now part of a team that provides opportunities for youth to explore their interests in theatre and the arts. These are opportunities that were provided to me, and to be on the other side of it is a privilege and I am very excited for the year ahead.

What kinds of projects are you involved in outside of work?

This past summer, I co-directed and produced a play called SCAT, which was performed at the Toronto Fringe Festival. I came to Soulpepper not long after that, and went through other exciting changes in my life. I basically got a new job, a new apartment, and got engaged all in the same week. The last couple of months have really been adapting to new environments and adjusting to new beginnings.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing? 

It depends on the day. I like watching Netflix on my couch, preferably accompanied by a glass of wine. I try to do a wine and cheese night at least once or twice a month! I also enjoy knitting around this time of year. That’s something I would really like to master eventually. Right now, simple headbands and scarfs are my thing…I am getting better with hats but I need a whole lot more practice. I LOVE to cook and bake and enjoy trying new recipes. So if you have any cool recipes – feel free to send them my way!

What is something we would be surprised to know about you? 

I love to dance!! I used to be in a dance group during my time at York University and I miss it very much. One of my goals for 2018 is to join a dance group/class and I am thoroughly looking forward to it! I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?

I love that this company feels like a community. We are all interconnected and everyone here has been incredibly welcoming to me. Being a part of this department is all the more rewarding because we get the opportunity to work with youth and provide free programming. One of my favourite moments so far was during a youth workshop – when I saw some participants come into the building for the first time. They were in awe of the building and the opportunity and were keen to learn and experience a performance at this theatre. It reminded of my first time here. I am looking forward to the coming year – to work directly with my fellow coworkers, youth, and community organizations.

Photo Diary: A Day with the City Youth Academy

Soulpepper’s yearly City Youth Academy is a paid, intensive program, providing 10 young people (ages 16-19) with performance training, led by Soulpepper Artists. The young artists have five weeks of artistic skills training and development, and are paired with an Artist Mentor from Soulpepper’s artistic company. Over the course of the program, their instruction includes scene study, devised creation, and training in movement, music, ensemble, writing, rehearsal and performance. The program is designed to inspire personal creativity, artistic discipline, and to support young artists in the development of their own artistic practice.

This is one day in the life of the 2017 City Youth Academy:

1

Today the City Youth Academy brought in images or written pieces that inspired them as part of the theatre devising work they are doing with program lead artist Jennifer Villaverde: many brought in poems; others shared articles or art work; one performed his piece while playing the guitar.

2

EEzra (above) performs a song entitled Young America. While listening to his song, the others look around to view the inspirational objects of their peers. As they look around, they take observational notes. After Ezra performs his piece, some of the participants are inspired to read their pieces and share their inspirations. Marcus shares the poem Lord, Why did you make me Black? by Yeefon Mawusi. Minjae shares Milinda Mae and the Monstrous Whale which he had read, and loved, when he was younger.

3

As the City Youth Academy participants share their pieces, everyone listens attentively – it’s a very personal, and ultimately moving, exercise.

4

After all the pieces are shared, they form a journey of growth on paper from being a teenager, to becoming an adult, and beyond. The participants arrange the pieces on the timeline, and write their thoughts beside the pieces.

5

After a short break, it’s time for Dance with Pulga Muchochoma, working with the song ‘Wash’ by Teknomiles. All the participants are very quick in following the choreography being thought to them: they dance with much energy, moving and jumping across the room.

6

The 2017 City Youth Academy poses with Dance Artists Instructor Pulga Muchochoma, Lead Artists Instructor Jennifer Villaverde, Program Assistant Celia Green and Soulpepper’s Community Programming team Fiona Suliman and Molly Gardner.

Photo Diary by Soulpepper Marketing Intern Mia Tionko, recorded onsite at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in August, 2017. Visit Soulpepper.ca/youth for more information.