WEST PLAINS -- One of the most popular programs at Southwest Missouri State University at West Plains continues to thrive, thanks to the assistance of the 37th Judicial District juvenile office and West Plains Community 2000 (C-2000).
C-2000 has donated approximately $7,000 to the university this year to cover expenses of the Theater in Education program and the juvenile office is continuing its long-term support of the program by providing scheduling asistance for performances at area school districts. Oregon County is included in the 37th Judicial District Juvenile Office.
The program provides students with an opportunity to develop their performance skills while educating their audience about such subjects as the dangers of drug abuse and have to resolve conflicts without violence. The six students selected for the program perform scenes concerning these issues before seventh grade classes in surrounding school districts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tiffany Wiggs, a 2003 Alton High School graduate, is among the students selected this year for the program.
To alleviate some of the financial burden for these students, officials with C-2000 donated funding this year for six scholarships that will pay for 12 college credit hours for each student in the program. The money comes from ACT Mo grant funding awarded to C-2000, according to Michelle Green, C-2000 mobilizer for the local area.
"This is a very worthwhile cause. I'm glad we were able to add an addendum to our grant proposal that allowed us to increase our funding request to facilitate this program. Through this program, we're reaching children and teaching them alternative ways of resolving conflict," Green said. "An added perk is that we're able to give back to a broad range of communities and children through this program."
Assistant Professor of Communications Kay Garrett, the program's director, said she is pleased to have C-2000 on board this year. "With state funding so tight, the juvenile office, which has been so generous in its support of this program the past nine years, was going to be limited in the amount of support it could provide this year. Thankfully, C-2000 stepped in and provided the funding needed to support scholarships for the students and cover other program costs," she said.
Stan Smith, chief juvenile officer for the 37th Judicial District, said his office will continue to support the program through in-kind services "Although state cutbacks could have had a detrimental effect on this program, C-2000 stepped up an filled the gap," he said. "We're happy that we can join with them to support this very worthwhile endeavor. It's another example of how agencies can collaborate for the betterment of the communities we serve."
This spring the students, including Wiggs, will give 44 performances to approximately 900 seventh graders in 21 area schools, including schools in Oregon County. In addition the students in the program will assist with the fourth annual Peer Mediation Training workshop for middle school students and their sponsors set for June at SMSU. This event is sponsored by SMSU-WP and the 37th Judicial Circuit of Missouri and is designed to teach middle school students how to help their peers resolve conflicts through good communication techniques. Last year over 160 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from schools around the judicial circuit participated in the workshop.