Castle wins national honor
Its performing arts after-school program is awarded $10,000
The Castle Performing Arts Center is being honored today as one of the best after-school arts programs in the nation, with a $10,000 award at the White House for its theatrical work with Windward Oahu students.
"For a public high school arts program to be recognized for excellence is truly an honor," said Karen Meyer, director of the center, which teaches classical acting, vocal music and dance to students in grades five through 12.
Meyer and Castle High School student Andrew Johnson are in Washington, D.C., today for the Coming Up Taller Awards by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. The Kaneohe program is one of 15 nationwide to receive the award.
"At CPAC, we teach life skills, not just singing and dancing, which guide our students to become caring members of their communities, no matter what their chosen careers," Meyer said. "We hope this recognition will help us gain the financial and community support we need to expand our programs to more of Hawaii's children."
Founded in 1963, the state-sponsored program grew out of Castle High School in Kaneohe, and attracts hundreds of students and 15,000 audience members annually. It includes classes during the school day as well as after school, along with technical workshops, set design, rehearsals and full-scale productions.
The current season ranges from Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" to a contemporary dance show. The next show will be "The Music Man, Junior" featuring fifth- through eighth-graders, Feb. 24-26.
"We believe our nation's future -- our leaders, artists, writers, musicians, educators, entrepreneurs -- depends on the investment these excellent programs make in the lives and talents of our youth," said Henry Moran, executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
That committee teams up with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Coming Up Taller awards program. More than 250 nominations were received last year.
Students involved in the Castle program wind up with higher graduation rates and grade-point averages than their public school peers in the area, according to evaluations by the state Department of Education. Graduates have gone on to Broadway productions such as "Miss Saigon" and a variety of careers.
Maj. Christopher Slavens of the Hawaii Army National Guard, now in Iraq, said he learned the value of hard work during his teen years at the Castle Center.
"If you work hard at something, you will feel good about it," he said. "And if you feel good about it, you'll work harder at it. The harder you work at it the better you will feel about your success. I hope to pass that on to my students, my soldiers and my two sons."