Warning to School Boards and principals across the country: yes, we are in the middle of a recssion, but you miiiight not want to cut that funding for the drama department. Otherwise, you will have to contend with Fort Lauderdale High School junior Tatiana Rose-Becker and her ilk. Beware: They are teenaged, they are armed with modern technology, and they are pissed.
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According to Becker, last Tuesday, she and her pals were just about to hold their annual meeting to choose officers for next year's drama club, when her drama coach, Chrystina Catsicas, pulled her aside "and basically informed us that our hopes and dreams were crushed." In other words, the drama program was being put on the "surplus list" -- slated to be slashed due to severe budget cuts. As Becker put it in an ominous tone, "We weren't OK with that."
That night, Becker and her "co-CEOs" Matt Brown and Maria Savarese decided to found an organization called United Students for the Arts (USA). They fired up their Facebook accounts and started a group called Keep the Arts in Broward County Schools. By Wednesday morning, they had 600 members. (The number is now around 4,000.) In no time, a website -- http://unitedstudentsforthearts.org/ -- was put up, a petition site was established, and kids were combing the internet looking for grants that could provide funding. By Thursday, a telephone campaign was underway. By Friday, Becker's mom was speaking with Gov. Crist's sceretary. By Saturday, some 45 concerned students and parents were meeting in a local park -- with Channel 6 covering the story.
Then, Becker says, on Sunday night, the drama coach heard from the area supervisor that she need not worry; the drama club would remain. "It was because of all the ruckus we caused." But the students remain vigilant, as well as concerned for other programs that are rumored to be cut -- drama, band chorus, guitar, TV production, peer counseling, and P.E. "They basically gave the drama kids their carrot so they'd shut up," Becker says. "But we aren't gonna be quiet, because everyone needs their stuff." As of this afternoon, Becker, Brown and Savarese were crafting their mission statement, planning to apply for 501 (c) 3 non-profit status, and figuring out how to save arts programs across the country from similar cuts. No one at Fort Lauderdale High could be reached after school hours.
The students' Facebook page now has some 4,000 members, and a protest is tentatively scheduled for this Thursday, but that is currently being reconsidered because of an unintended consequence: jocks are said to be threatening drama kids for fear that sports will now be cut in lieu of drama programs. Stay tuned.