Three years ago Associate Professor and Director of Theatre Mark Mannette conceived the idea to form a project that would help bring joy to the Circle of Friends, a group of special needs students in Wichita schools. Mannette explained “The idea is to do something special for these students.”
Newman students John Denny, Kati Bush, Justin Ralph, Wesley Williams, Lauren Spencer, Amy Emerson, Mary White, Makaylah Perkins, Josie Jenkins, Larry Shepard and Mark Carlson, along with Technical Director and Designer Jamison Rhodes, traveled to the Orchard Park Recreation Center where they held workshops involving acting and other theatre related activities with special needs students from throughout USD 259. Mannette said that interacting with the young students by showing them the many aspects of theatre, from being silly to learning life lessons, “enriches their lives and puts smiles on their faces.”
This project, which students have done each of the past three years, is only one of many that the Theatre Department is involved with each year. This service project is mutually beneficial to both university and grade school students. Serving others is an important concept in the Theatre Department, along with the university as a whole. Interacting with kids who have special needs and helping them see their potential is cherished among the university students.
Theatre students investing their skill set by sharing what they have learned through the years manifests its own reward due to the positive impact it has on the lives of the students with special needs. Many involved in the project expressed how grateful they are to be able to utilize their time in a constructive way that benefits their community. Using their talents to help the kids see their potential talents has become and will continue to be a memorable tradition for the Newman University Theatre Department.