Jul 17, 2014
01:11 PM
Connecticut Today

Connecticut Ballet’s Juvenile Justice Outreach Program Makes an Impact

(page 4 of 4)

BIG IMPACTS

It’s a dreary summer day, and rain beats against the multi-paned windows of the Cedarhurst School in Hamden as a collection of teenagers rally around Dana Fripp, singer, actress and all-around creative whirlwind, for a pep talk before their final performance in front of the rest of the student body.

All of the students attend the school because they have been identified as emotional disturbed (ED) or other health impaired (OHI).

“Be proud of what you’ve done,” Fripp tells them with tears in her eyes. “Do not judge yourselves harshly. We are human and divine. I told you I would stand next to you if you needed me to and I kid you not.”

The performance is a mix of poetry, singing and musicianship completely created by the teens.

“I feel like I just show up,” the teacher says with a laugh.

Throughout the show, they look to Fripp for encouragement and support. She stands at the back of the room, wearing a San Antonio Spurs basketball jersey, fairy wings and a halo—she’s their creative angel.

(Right, from calypso dance class at St. Agnes.)

Betsy Donovan, director of the Cedarhurst School, says that Fripp was the perfect fit for her students and their needs. Many of the students would not have participated in a performance like that prior to working with Fripp.

“It’s a difficult population to work with. For some people it’s overwhelming. They don’t necessarily feel comfortable,” says Donovan. “[Fripp] embraced them, the good, the bad and the ugly. I think that they felt that. It became reciprocal. They really loved her and enjoyed working with her. She made it easy for them to be who they were. I think they felt that immediate acceptance.”

When Fripp was offered the job at Cedarhurst, she had just emerged from an emotionally trying time in her life. She said she was not sure she was ready to take the job, but Raphael assured that she would be great for the position. Working with the group was a therapeutic experience for her. She has battled with depression and attention deficit disorder (ADD) like some of the students. She was able to relate to them because she had been there herself.

(Above, an African drumming class at Webster House.)

“I’m so proud of them for just staying with the creative workshop from January through June,” says Fripp. “I did have some kids who said, ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’ They had to minister to themselves, but I had this core of 10 that no matter what they were going through [they participated]. It did what it was supposed to. It served in a therapeutic fashion. It served in the same way for me.”

Fripp built lasting relationships with the students in her workshop. She even sang at their graduation at the end of the year.

“I already told [Connecticut Ballet], in planning for next year, I’m happy to have new people come in as well, but I want Dana back,” says Donovan.  

For more information on Connecticut Ballet and their Juvenile Justice Outreach Program visit the website at connecticutballet.com

Contact me by email at khartman@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google +

Connecticut Ballet’s Juvenile Justice Outreach Program Makes an Impact

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