Seven years ago I was a sixth grader starting middle school. I was too young to drive, so with my options limited, my fellow classmates and I turned to one of the after school options we did have: the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program. I spent only three years in the program, but I was affected by it throughout high school.
The 21st Century Program at Cumberland County Middle School provides classes ranging from sports and athletics to fine arts to home economics. More importantly, the program provides tutoring to any student along with a free snack – which can be more important to a hungry middle school student than the tutoring! The program is also a place for students to be in the morning before school if their parents work early.
Some of my favorite memories of the 21st Century Program are of the field trips. I remember going to the Kentucky Repertoire Theatre and seeing "Dracula." I have always loved theater, but seeing a play because of the 21st Century Program helped me realize how theatre inspires my imagination and my heart.
Another 21st Century Program near to my heart is the Missoula Children’s Theatre Company, a non-profit children’s theater that tours the United States visiting local communities regardless of size and economic status. The Company stages musical productions from the auditioning, to the rehearsing, to the actual performance all in one week. In my county the opportunity for theater is very limited, which is a problem for students like me who love to act but do not have the chance to do so. 21st Century has made a difference in the lives of students by helping bring in Missoula Children’s Theatre Company.
I have auditioned for every show and been fortunate enough to be cast in every show. Because of the program I have had the opportunity to discover my passion in life and learned valuable lessons like learning how to respect each person for the talents they can bring to a project and how to overcome personal limitations. I’ve also discovered that I love working with children and helping them to succeed. I hope to one day make a difference by working for the theatre company and I know that this is all because of 21st Century funding that brought performing opportunities to our rural county.
The 21st Century Community Learning Center Program has made a difference not only in my life, but in the lives of hundreds of Cumberland County students. It has provided programs for middle school students, supported programs to help keep the arts alive in all of the Cumberland County schools, and has helped me personally to discover my own passion. The program has been amazing for everyone involved and I hope that it will continue to make a difference in the lives of students.