Professional Development with People, Inc.

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Young Audiences provided a daylong robust professional development program for People Inc., Western New York’s leading non-profit human service agency. Through a variety of services—including residential, employment, community outreach, health care and recreation programs—People Inc. helps families, seniors and people with disabilities to live more healthy, independent and productive lives.  

After the experience, Mary Petrakos, People Inc.’s program director, said, “These workshops were just awesome! If Young Audiences had crawled inside my head to see exactly what I wanted them to do…this surpassed what I’d imagined!”

The daylong program included the following:

Annette Daniels Taylor, poet, author and performing artist, will presented her popular workshop “Say What You Mean—Make a Zine!” In this hands-on workshop, participants creating created a mini-magazine. As they considered the questions of content, design and historical examples, participants engaged their imagination on many levels.

Nels Ross offered “Juggling & Life Skills ‘Play’shop,” an alternative to “work”shops. Physical activity in this “play”shop developed life skills like coordination, confidence, and self-discipline. Ross used a variety of objects to demonstrate juggling techniques. Participants tried their hand at balancing peacock feathers, and juggling scarves. “Play”shops are accessible to many learning styles; they may also help improve skills used in reading, writing, math, and science, like tracking, motor, and sequencing.

In her “Hands on Arts” presentation, art therapist Kristen Crosson employed a variety of creative projects to encourage self-expression and build self-esteem. With these workshops Crosson engaged with participants to address topics including elements of art, free expression, self-awareness, socialization, group cooperation, sensory awareness, motor skills and positive self-esteem.

Musician and storyteller Rodney Appleby offered “Perspectives: On Your Feet Writing,” a program which used dramatic role play, secret coding, spirituals and folk music to conveys communication methods between 19th century collaborators (enslaved Africans, abolitionists, bounty hunters, and plantation masters) within the Underground Railroad movement. The content emphasized the power of music as a tool, in particular during the Underground Railroad era. 

At the end of the workshop, Appleby encouraged participants to debate hot-seat questions such as “What is freedom?” and “Who is free?” which This workshop addresses many issues, including both practical empathy and the process of preserving culture., participants compose their own “call and response” style work song, discovering along the way that these early songs were the origin of the blues.

Popular teaching artist and dancer Sarah Haykel offered “Salsa for Life: Character Education & Development.” An infectious enthusiasm is one of her tools; through her own experience, she made connections and correlations with life skills. Dance, aside from its rhythm and physicality, teaches self-awareness, confidence, leadership and cooperation.

Stuart Fuchs, an experienced teaching artists and acclaimed musician, offered an interactive workshop and ukulele show, during in which he demonstrated the versatile instrument and talked about its history. Participants joined in to learn ukulele fingering positions. They sang along to Portuguese sea shanties, and discoverd how the little instrument is used in folk, pop, rock and jazz music. They get to strengthened listening, observation and concentration skills.

After the day-long experience, People Inc. staffer, Sophia McClintock.  “I really enjoyed learning to salsa with Sarah Haykel. The zine workshop was just great for me, too; I can use that [type of activity] with our clients in all kinds of fun creative ways!”

Her colleague, People Inc. art specialist Kaitlin Frisicaro said, “I attended Young Audiences’ Arts Abilities conference, which was really inspired me as an artist. The workshops, especially those with Kris Crosson, really reenergized me; I can’t wait to bring what I learned back to the classroom!”