Affiliated with Mt. Calvary Seventh Day Adventist Church in Tampa, FL, the Mount Calvary Youth Drama Guild, started in 1993, is an organization designed to provide wholesome activities for youth through drama. The Guild has been successful in helping to redirect troubled teens. In 1996, the Guild started a summer program called F.A.M.I.L.Y. (Friends Acting to Mentor, Inspire & Lead Youth). The purpose of the program is to help African American children in foster care feel like a part of a family and hopefully find one via mentoring and drama productions performed in the community.
There are approximately 500 African American children in need of adoptive families in Hillsborough County and many of these children are in foster care. The members of the Guild, youth (ages 10-18), joined together to address the needs of these foster children by organizing a summer thespian program with the goal to generate more exposure for the foster children and recreate the grassroots responsibilities of the Black church to family. The Guild members are motivated by the desire to make a difference in their community and inspired by the philosophy of the organization Youth as Resources (YAR)—nation’s youth population can be active and meaningful contributors to their communities and to the country.
The Guild designed a program consisting of group activities, mentoring, skits and a play production. The program is funded by a grant from YAR and through fund raising efforts/events. Coordination for facilities, planning the weekly events, and communicating with foster parents is done by Guild members. One Church One Child, Inc. of Hillsborough County supports their efforts by sponsoring children in need of adoption.
During the first year (1996), fifteen foster children (ages 7-17) participated in the summer program. They were paired with a Guild member and together they learned about performing and acting. They practiced their scenes and lines, creating relationships along the way that fostered a family environment. The summer program finished with the performance of three plays that were written and produced by the guild members. One Church One Child reported that, as a direct result of the first summer of the F.A.M.I.L.Y. program, 60 inquiries were made about the adoption process, two families pursued adoptions, and one foster parent adopted two children.
During the second year of F.A.M.I.L.Y., summer 1997, the Guild members did a mentoring project with about fifteen foster children geared toward looking to the future in terms of job and career. Guild members arranged for business professionals to conduct workshops on various career fields and what it takes to get there. They also made arrangements to have the foster children shadow these and other professionals while at work, based upon the interest of the child. These children had the opportunity to learn about everything from the career path of a lawyer to that of a veterinarian. The Guild is currently in the process of deciding what special project is next.
The young people of this program identified a need in their community and successfully orchestrated a summer program for foster children. They took responsibility of the entire program, doing everything from developing an accounting system to advertising, and they made it work.