Kids around Clark County are getting their time to shine on stage because of Journey Theater’s commitment to youth and growing character through its arts training programs. The organization started as a licensee of Christian Youth Theater in 2002 and operated as such until 2012. In 2012, the board of directors decided to branch out on their own and become an independent nonprofit organization: Journey Theater was born.

Pumba, Simba, Timon take the stage for Journey Theater’s performance of The Lion King. Photo courtesy: Journey Theater

Today, the Christian theater arts program offers over 120 after-school classes focusing on acting, singing, and dancing to more than 700 youth ranging from 6- to 18-years-old, with 55 percent of those representing Clark County. Nearly 600 of these students perform in a dozen Broadway-style musicals and plays each year. Classes are offered in two areas of Clark County, as well as in Portland and Beaverton. Since its beginning 18 years ago, the organization has served over 7,500 kids.

“We have 5 full-time and 13 part-time staff, in addition to the pool of over 100 teachers, directors, musicians, and choreographers that take the lead on classes, shows and camps,” shares Stephen Pick, Journey Theater’s executive director. “More than 25,000 patrons attend Journey’s season of shows each year.”

Journey Theater’s objective is to give youth and their families a place that promotes character development and purpose so they can be difference-makers in the world.  A sense of belonging and true friendships are tangible benefits that participants talk about when explaining why they love being involved with Journey Theater, but confidence is another positive outcome. “It’s clear to me that one of the main things students gain from theater-arts education is confidence,” says Bethany Larson, founder. “This confidence starts to show as they give presentations at school, compete for college scholarships, interact with professors and peers in college, interview for jobs, launch their own creative endeavors, and enter the workforce.”

Journey Theater performs Singin’ In The Rain. Sets and costumes are built and sewn by parent committees for each show. Photo courtesy: Journey Theater

One of the most unique things about Journey Theater is the incredible amount of parent involvement that happens both behind the scenes as well as on stage. Each student that is cast in a show must have a parent or other adult serve on a Parent Committee. These committees are crucial to the success of a show, providing families a special way to bond over a common goal. The committees paint and build sets, sew costumes together, sell tickets or refreshments, help backstage with props or sound, and much more. Because families are working together in such an amazing capacity, the organization has a one-of-a-kind family atmosphere that brings shows and characters to life.

Looking at the future, Journey Theater plans to continue to make a difference in the community, as well as individuals in the area. “The board of directors has set forth a strategic plan to see the Journey community grow in people, places and things,” says Pick. “Journey would like to build on its successful track record to see a deepening and expanding of program offerings and quality of the training. We want to continue to see students and families thriving in a community that cares for and supports them. We also want to engage alumni to give back and mentor younger peers and to see participant demographics explode to serve all in our community.”

Journey Theater students participate in a dress rehearsal for Seussical, Jr. The organization offers approximately 12 Broadway-style shows each year for youth up to 18-years-old. Photo courtesy: Journey Theater

Pick explains that the organization would also love to find a permanent home where they could grow and serve more families and kids. They are working on achieving greater financial growth, including cultivating a strong donor base and monthly giving program. Journey Theater will also continue to build partnerships with businesses in the area. In Clark County alone, the organization has had longstanding relationships with schools and churches including Summit View Church, Fort Vancouver High School, Washougal High School, Cascade Park Baptist Church and more. They also have corporate partners including those with Hurley Development, Pioneer Pest Management, Macy’s, and others. These businesses and others support the program primarily through financial sponsorship of performances. Journey is also fortunate to utilize free office space inside of U.S. Digital’s Outreach Center.

“Beyond teaching artistic skills, the organization provides youth and their families a place to build community—an essential ingredient in fighting rising rates of anxiety, depression and suicide,” says Larson. “In a world drowning in confusion and isolation, kids desperately need a place to belong.”

To learn how your child can become involved, visit the Journey Theater website.

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