GREENSBORO — Years down the road — if all goes as planned — every eighth grade student in Guilford County Schools will attend a Broadway show annually at the new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts.
That opportunity will happen through eighth grade service-learning projects that focus on civic engagement and community work.
Credit past and present members of the board of directors of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and its president, Walker Sanders.
Board members financed the tentatively-titled Endowment to Engage Youth in the Performing Arts to honor Sanders’ 20th anniversary as foundation president, and his efforts to make the Tanger Center a reality.
The board members contributed more than $100,000; that’s now worth $130,000, said Phelps Sprinkle, foundation vice president of development and donor services. The foundation hopes that the endowment will grow with community contributions.
Classes of eighth graders selected as winners will attend the national touring production of “Disney’s The Lion King’” on Feb. 24 at the Tanger Center at 300 N. Elm St., just across the street from the Community Foundation’s new offices at 301 N. Elm St.
Sprinkle expects at least 120 students to attend during the first year.
Sanders is thrilled by the endowment and its purpose — providing additional arts curriculum and learning opportunities.
He was “completely surprised” in fall 2019 when foundation officials told him to attend a fundraising event for the Tanger Center — which turned out to be an announcement about the endowment.
“You think about the opportunity that, for years to come, children who may not have gone to a performing arts show are going to get to go to one,” Sanders said.
“That is something that we should all be proud of as a community, that we’re making something like that possible for children,” Sanders said. “Hopefully in 20 years, every eighth grader will be going.”
Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras also praised the program.
“As eighth grade students prepare to enter high school, they should have access to opportunities for civic engagement and service-learning that both lead to positive postsecondary outcomes,” Contreras said.
“GCS has a longstanding history of supporting performing and visual art in conjunction with the community,” she said. “Exposure to live theater is an opportunity for students to engage in life experiences outside of the traditional school program.”
The Community Foundation manages 700 charitable funds and holds $311 million in assets. It promotes philanthropy, builds and maintains endowment funds and has directed and supported such projects as LeBauer Park and the Tanger Center.
Sanders and Kathy Manning were instrumental in raising $43 million from private donors to help fund the $93 million, 3,023-seat Tanger Center that opened Sept. 2. The rest came from the city of Greensboro through a combination of ticket fees, parking revenues and a tax on hotel rooms.
The foundation and school district staff worked out the details of the program that the new endowment will finance.
They opted for a service-learning program that would become a competition.
This month, it will get started.
Eighth graders in Guilford County Schools already do service-learning, an educational approach that combines learning objectives with community service.
“We wanted it to fit well with what they are already doing, not try to create something new for them,” Sprinkle said.
For this school year, the project will operate at seven Title 1 middle schools, with higher concentrations of students from low-income families.
Eighth grade classes there will create projects that reflect the importance of service-learning and civic engagement.
The question: How can you and your class make a positive civil change in your community using student voice?
Among questions they will consider: What roles do you play in democracy? How can you put democracy into action? What issues do you see your community facing? How can you bring positive change to your community?
They will analyze how democratic ideals shaped government in the state and United States.
Students will work with their teacher to create a plan of action that will outline timelines, materials and audience.
They will share and explain their project with their schools and the project selection panel.
Projects will be showcased and evaluated, much like those in a science fair.
Students in the classes of the winning teams will receive tickets for an age-appropriate show at the Tanger Center.
The program will be expanded in coming years to include additional middle schools — until all eighth graders attend a performance at the Tanger Center each year.
But that will take growing the endowment to finance the project.
“We have a long way to go to get there,” Sanders said.
The Community Foundation also hopes to engage eighth graders with teens and young adults who participate in its grantmaking council and Future Fund, enabling them to learn more about philanthropy.
Philanthropy promotes the welfare of others, expressed by the generous donation of money to worthy causes.
“It’s all about getting people engaged in philanthropy early on,” Sprinkle said.
Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.