‘Around the World’ showcase gives ELS students a chance to shine

On Friday, December 17, 2021, the Educational Life Skills (ELS) students performed in the “Around the World” showcase. This showcase was the end result of the new Fine Arts Exploration class.

In this course, students learned different music and theater skills such as singing, dancing, acting and many more. They prepared for the showcase months in advance by learning how to read music, paint sets and sew costumes among other skills.

“The idea was to give [students] in educational life skills the opportunity to experience what it’s like to perform,” Jeremy Little, the teacher of the class, said. “The rush of performing, the rehearsal process when something isn’t good at the beginning and then it gets better, when something comes together for the first time in rehearsal and you look at your friend and it’s really cool… you create that.”

Little worked along with other teachers to give this new opportunity to the ELS students. The class ran everyday during eighth period and would combine with Mrs. Freichels’ “Intro to Theater” class once a week to have students work together in putting on a show.

“When we have a class that’s dedicated to them but also have our neurotypical friends as buddies, they get the best of both worlds,” Little said. “They get to learn from buddies, but also get to show what they know… and we can set them up for success [so] they can shine.”

The “Exploration in Fine Arts” class has opened up room for the possibility of more programs for ELS students. They are currently taking a cooking class during eighth period, and plan to have more fun elective options in the future.

“We are in talks with the administration to see where the future of this class goes,” Little said. “We want to do something like this again, and we have bigger dreams for what the scope of this class [might be], but we have to see how it all fits into the school plan.”

Jianna Falk
If there was one word that could describe Jianna (9), it would be confidence. Her self-assured state mixed with her lively attitude make her a very fun person to talk to. After the showcase, she couldn’t stop talking about how much fun she had onstage. This was Falk’s first time performing, and she said would absolutely do it again.

Other than music, she enjoys her art classes and hopes to be an artist someday. She hopes the school can extend the class opportunities for educational life skills students so that they can learn new skills like how to build sculptures.

Mia Steinert
Mia (9) has proven to be a huge ray of sunshine. Even though her nerves hit when she stepped onstage for the first time in the showcase, Steinert was able to muster up the confidence and finish off strong.

Before taking the class, she had done cheerleading for two years and realized that dancing is her passion.

Inclusive physical education is Steinert’s favorite class to take because of it’s integrated environment. She would love to have more opportunities like that class to learn fun activities with “buddies.”

Mila Mirjanic

Although playing video games is her favorite hobby, Mila (10) enjoyed learning music for the showcase.

Along with singing, however, the best time she had in the class was making the skirt costumes for the Spain dancing scene. Mirjanic is hopeful to learn more about singing like her favorite artist Halsey and wants to take the music class again. She also has a love for math and hopes to continue learning it in the future.

Joel Smith
Joel (12) is the all-star athlete of the group who can now also call himself a performer. His favorite part of the showcase was having student peers show up to cheer him on, but he also really enjoyed making drums.

Out of school, Smith competes in Special Olympics, where he’s part of the basketball, bowling, soccer and swim teams. He loves playing with friends from other schools and wishes that he could get more athletic experiences during the school day.

Hanna Krietsch
Not only is Hanna (12) a performer in school, but she also does musical theater outside of VHHS. She’d gotten previous experience in shows like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Madagascar” before the showcase took place. Her favorite part of the show was singing about Spain, and she couldn’t contain her excitement before the show.

Krietsch is a very busy student, however, with more than theater as part of her activities. She has also won two medals for snowshoeing in Special Olympics and works part time at Walgreens.