BRAVO was there

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John Figel

The BRAVO Arts Program gives students more then just fundamental teachings of stage directions and instructions of how one should recite memorized lines. Rather, it pushes kids beyond the basics of performance and plays an essential role in fostering how many of these kids mature into young adults.

When I was 16 years old I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. As a result I was forced to quit the varsity swim team as a sophomore at OPRF. I was devastated, and if it were not for this program I would have been left on my own to find a new outlet so I could feel apart of something. But BRAVO, like it has always been and as I hope it always will be, was there.

I turned to Tina Reynolds, the BRAVO program director, and she was kind enough to offer me the chance to transition from pupil to teacher. I firmly believe that without such an opportunity I would not be in the same position that I am today. It is for that reason, as I touched upon earlier, that I believe this program taps into much more than just a kid's stage talents. It allows for a safety net for kids who may not be able to participate in other extracurricular activities, because of some uncontrollable circumstance, to grow and build confidence. I was limited from doing something that I loved because of something that I could not control. However, it was at BRAVO that those limitations did not matter. It's the very nondiscriminatory nature of the program that makes is so unique.

It is here that I have seen a kid so introverted he wanted to remain in the back of stage, timid to receive any attention, take a bow the following year in a lead role. It is what lends itself to the reason I have been able to work with kids from the inner city who otherwise would have never known the power of the arts. And it is why I have received inspiration in seeing a mentally disabled child, who may not have been able to fully participate on a basketball or debate team, be treated as fully equal and accept a lead in role in a show.

It is for these brief examples, and many more unmentioned stories, that passing this referendum is so important. For the power of a program like BRAVO gives so much more than just providing children with the opportunity to have fun on a stage. It gives them a chance to excel in parts of their lives that cannot be taught in any classroom or found in any textbook. It is a unique experience, and for many children it has empowered them to achieve in ways that have changed their lives.

n Oak Parker John Figel, 20, is an undergraduate student at Indiana University. He has been apart of the BRAVO program, both teaching and performing, for the last nine years.

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Reader Comments

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Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 8:58 AM

@Capt Hook. Thank you for clarifying. The total cost listed as a reduction is $277K/year for both C and B, so I assume they have other funding if they really spent $200K on the equipment for one show (? - I'm not familiar enough with the program to know) I wanted to also mention (for anyone else reading along) that students can participate in Crew, where they do the set design/building, lighting, and sound

E. Jackson  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 8:55 AM

@Captain Hook - wasn't Peter Pan actually a CAST production ( Also, beyond the salary and benefits for employees and a small contribution from the board, I believe the money for both of these programs comes from fundraising and donations. Where are you getting $200,000 for a single program?

Capt Hook from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 8:29 AM

@Oak Park Mom: My intent was not to pick on the kids. It was to point out that spending $200K on a single program for 6-8th graders (where thousands were spent needlessly on production values well above the level of the performers) is a bit silly. Is there value in the program intrinsically? Absolutely (your daughter sounds like a wonderful example). Is it currently bloated and unnecessarily complex? Yes, I think so. My tastes have nothing to do with it, my sense of reality, however, does.

Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 8:18 AM

@Capt Hook. Nice, pick on the kids who are putting themselves out there. I don't have a child in C or B but I've seen several performances in the past few years just for fun, and they've been fantastic. Maybe my taste is not as refined as yours. You mention Peter Pan. Seeing that performance has inspired my kid, who is painfully shy, to try acting next year. @JOHN FIGEL when I saw this letter it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for caring enough to write it. We need more adults like you.

Capt Hook from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 7:42 AM

Did anybody see "Peter Pan"? The flying around part was cool -- reportedly because BRAVO paid a Las Vegas consultant a whole bunch of money to put it together. That said, the rest of the production was what you'd expect -- a bunch of 6-8th graders trying to act and sing and bumping into the scenery. It's a great activity, it has value, the kids work hard...but to defend it as "art" is silly. Let's restore reason to this kind of program regardless of the tax increase, shall we?

Oak Parkere  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 6:01 AM

Touching story. Sad that your parents weren't available to turn to instead. I'm voting NO because I've never seen anything like this and think pulling at heart strings is a sickening tactic.


Posted: March 31st, 2011 1:33 AM

To vote no is one thing. But to pile on with all this mess is just plain wrong. VOTE YES. It's the only side using reality based reasoning.


Posted: March 31st, 2011 1:32 AM

Noel, can anyone contradict their own positions more than you. One post "where's the data." Second post to ask for data is "laughable". "We need 21st century schools." "Why did district buy the teachers laptops." Oh, and you keep saying the teachers aren't really using the laptops. The teachers received training for the laptops this past summer. Yes, can u believe, they actually went to work in the summer. SHOCKING...only to those who don't know the commitment teachers make.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 11:40 PM

I agree with the last post. The value of programs like BRAVO and CAST is intrinsic. Their value does not depend on whether they affect performance in other subject matters. If you think the only value is that which can be quantified, Noel, you live on a very lonely desert island.

@Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 11:12 PM

The idea that some sort of study could be launched targeting the academic achievement of specific BRAVO and CAST performers is almost laughable. How could anyone acquire and compare privileged data about specific students? Trying to denigrate a heartfelt expression with a demand for proof is childish and shameful. Should Mr. Figel launch a study proving his high academic standing is a direct result of working with BRAVO?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 2:22 AM

BRAVO & CAST may be important but where is the data? During the last PTO council meeting I asked if there was any data showing that those in CAST performed higher in academics? Did it increase learning outcomes? Answer was NO data. We can all come up with subjective anecdotes to justify the programs being cut. But we live in the 21st century where important decision are made using facts. Voting NO forces D97 to be more efficient, using facts & 21st century school mgmt processes & procedures

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