AREA -- One of the most popular programs at Southwest Missouri State University-West Plains continues to thrive, thanks to the assistance of the 37th Judicial District Juvenile Office.
The office which serves Oregon, Howell and Shannon counties has donated $5,472 in scholarship money this year to support students in the theater education program. 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 how to resolve conflicts without violence. The six students selected for the program includes two from Oregon County. Anne England and Jim Driskoll perform scenes concerning these issues before seventh grade classes in surrounding school districts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because of this schedule students cannot usually work or take classes on these days. To alleviate some of the financial burden for these students, officials with the juvenile office have, for the past seven years, funded six scholarships that pay for 12 college credit hours for each student in the program with money they receive through the Missouri Division of Youth Services' Diversionary Grant Program.
"The scholarships have provided enough money for several of the students to choose not to work or to cut back on their work hours so they can be a part of the program," said Theater in Education Instructor Kay Garrett. "We are very pleased the juvenile office is willing to do this for the area schools."
Stan Smith, chief juvenile officer for the 37th Judicial District, said his office is pleased to assist the university in this worthwhile endeavor and pointed out the program has received recognition from the Missouri Supreme Court. "In his recent speech on the state of the judiciary to the Missouri Legislature and heads of government, Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Limbaugh, Jr. mentioned this theater program, as well as the summer mediation camp held on the SMSU-WP campus as innovative diversionary programs that are having a positive impact on the lives of Missouri's children."
The students will give 41 performances to approximately 1,200 seventh graders in 18 area schools during the spring semester. In addition, the students in the program will assist with the annual Peer Mediation Training Workshop for middle school students and their sponsors June 3-7 at SMSU-WP. Sponsored by SMSU and the 37th Judicial Circuit of Missouri, the workshop is designed to teach middle school students how to help their peers resolve conflicts through good communication techniques. Over 160 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students attended last year's event.