From the beginning, Zander struggled in school. Because of his short-temper and declining grades, he spent most of his days in the principal’s office. Most teachers would not encourage a student like Zander to audition for a role in the school play, but Mrs. Robertson of Felicity-Franklin Middle School knew theatre would make all the difference in his behavior.
Since 2015, Felicity-Franklin Middle School has been a part of JumpStart Theatre, an ETF funded initiative that builds musical theatre programs in middle schools that previously had none.
After one audition, Zander was cast in a lead role for the production, Drake in Honk! Jr. The JumpStart Theatre performance became an outlet for his frustrations, and the responsibility helped Zander realize his potential and ability to lead. The following school year, he was cast as Harold Hill in The Music Man Jr., became an A-honor student, and was elected class president.
Zander took his growth a step further when he decided to use his public speaking skills to share his love for theatre. He spoke to The Ladies Auxiliary of the American Legion and the 550- person audience at the annual JumpStart Theatre Showcase. In 2018, Zander nominated Mrs. Robertson for “Queen for a Day,” an award given to an educator whose student could explain why their teacher deserved royal treatment. Zander’s essay of Mrs. Robertson turning his life around through theatre, awarded the pair and their family tickets to the touring production of The King and I.
He shared, “Mrs. Robertson has brought Broadway to our small town of Felicity, Ohio. Mrs. Robertson and two other amazing teachers secured a grant from JumpStart Theatre, which allowed our school to put on a Broadway musical for three years.” Zander said, “Over 70 kids from our school joined musical theatre this year and the previous year there were only about 40 [students]. This huge growth showed what our small community can do and it’s all because of Mrs. Robertson.”
JumpStart Theatre allow teachers like Mrs. Robertson to inspire students like Zander to grow personally and academically to establish who they want to be. To learn more about JumpStart Theatre, contact Marion Combs.