“We’ve been really trying to increase the number of students we’re reaching, but even more than that, the number of impact hours, or the number of hours a student is working directly with an artist,” explained McCarter’s Director of Education and Engagement Erica Nagel. “What this grant will allow us to do is take some of the programs that have fewer impact hours and grow them.”
The Princeton Area Community Foundation selected the McCarter Theatre’s programs as providing valuable community support.
“With our Community Impact Grants, we support an array of excellent programs throughout our region,” said Jeffrey Vega president and CEO of the Community Foundation in an emailed statement to the ‘Prince.’ “We believe in arts education because it can transform young lives. We’re glad McCarter is among the organizations providing opportunities for young people in this region.”
According to Nagel, one way McCarter assists in the Trenton area is through a strong partnership with Trenton Central High School. While the construction for rebuilding the high school campus is under way, the different “interest tracks” of the high school are separated on different campuses until the new facility is built.
The McCarter program concentrates on a community of around 300 students at the Visual and Performing Arts campus, supporting and implementing drama classes. It also partners with three middle schools in the Trenton area for activities during and after school hours.
“The grant will allow us to, particularly in the middle school program, expand those to a lot more sessions and hopefully be able to see the impact,” said Nagel. “It means that our school and community partnerships coordinator, who is also a wonderful teaching artist, will be on site more and connecting with students more frequently.”
McCarter is also conducting a project called “Theatre to Learn” in Washington Elementary School, a statewide initiative started by the Dodge Foundation which uses theatre to teach literacy skills to second through fifth graders. Nagel stated that the program is already implemented in the second through fourth grades and, with the help of the grant, their program may be fully in place in the fifth grade as well.
“The idea is that students are building the skills over time, so that when they get to middle school, students can explore theatre without first having to ask the question of, ‘What is a play?’” Nagel explained.