Pasco Prodigy animates children with excitement
By Carl Orth | Suncoast NewsPORT RICHEY - Fun often animates at-risk children in the Pasco Prodigy program.
Published: August 8, 2012
Published: August 8, 2012
That's because youths enjoy the challenge of putting together their own stop-motion animated cartoons by taking a series of photos, site manager Jacqueline Bayliss explains.
Bayliss and Pasco Prodigy instructors Adrian Errico and Sarah Kelly twice a week visit the Salvation Army Pasco Corps headquarters in Port Richey, where they assist a few dozen youngsters on various visual and performing arts projects.
Last week, many youngsters paired off to compose their animated epics, such as a Barbie doll taking on some trolls, a clay character in the King Kong vein climbing to the top of a building, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines in a battle royale.
Prodigy provides all the art supplies and the cameras to snap the still photos that are then stitched together into animated features, Bayliss said.
Along the way, the children learn anger management, problem solving and communication, Bayliss emphasizes.
The Salvation Army summer camp is one of many Prodigy sites in the county. The program delivers art classes to as many as 650 children each year, often at Pasco County recreation centers.
Since 2006, Saint Leo University has been host to the Pasco Prodigy Cultural Arts Program, under the direction of Cindy Lee, an associate professor of social work.
Funded by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Prodigy has proven its effectiveness as a preventive, intervention and diversion program for at-risk children ages 7-17, Bayliss said. Each judicial court circuit in the area has its own Prodigy program.
Even during the difficult economy, Pasco Prodigy funding increased by some $60,000, Lee pointed out in a December press release.
Salvation Army joined the initiative as part of its summer camp this year, Bobby Riordan, community center director, said. Children have been so enthusiastic that Salvation Army hopes to continue the program in Port Richey throughout the year.
"With an 89 percent nonrecidivism rate, lives of many adolescents have been transformed in Pasco County," Bayliss wrote in an email message Thursday.
The Prodigy website address reflects the mission of the program, www.TransformingYoungLives.org.
The local program brings the arts as a medium of expression to children ages 7 to 17 who are in need of positive attention and may lack regular access to the arts, according to a 2011 Saint Leo newsletter article. Prodigy instructors, artists in their own right, have seen children grow in confidence and self-esteem as the children are encouraged to paint, draw or work in other visual arts, such as mixed media or electronic arts. The participants also get a taste of musical, theatrical, and spoken-word performances.
Along with confidence, the children develop an awareness of their own creativity and better ways to manage and express feelings such as anger or insecurity.
One 8-year-old girl started out withdrawn and sullen, frustrated when she was first given paints, a Prodigy instructor recalled. Slowly, she started to open up, smile and relax.
The creative passion of instructors often rubs off onto the youngsters.
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