2015 Stories of Impact: Staff Picks- Production Manager Jamie Donmoyer is inspired by Aspire

As we count down to the New Year, Production Manager Jamie Donmoyer shares her favorite story of impact from 2015:                2015 has many stories to choose from, but Steven’s journey to Respect is the story I find the most special.

As I entered the glass doors of Aspire Charter Academy, Principal Pam Schenkel greeted me with a concerned smile,”We are classified as a behavioral school. I just want you to be prepared for anything.”

I made a few mental notes, finished setting up A Good Day for Pancake and waited backstage for the students to arrive. When show time approached I peeked my head out from behind the curtain wondering where the students could be. To my surprise, there sat a full audience who had entered so quietly that I didn’t even know that they were there! I noticed a boy off in the corner  using a tablet (not uncommon in a behavioral school). The show began and the familiar sound of giggling and clapping filled the air.  From the corner, the boy put down his tablet and joined the other students in the fun. Instantly I knew that I was somewhere special.

MicheLee Puppets wanted to reward the students’ respectful manners and thoughtful questions, and a few months later we returned to deliver Sock Puppets With a Heart. As we loaded in boxes of sock puppets, Principal Schenkel beamed sharing,

“Our students are never chosen for anything.”

Steven sat in the corner, tablet in hand, watching as the students excitedly selected their very own puppets. Just as before, he put down his tablet and joined the others making silly voices and performing in a spontaneous puppet parade. The puppets were reaching the students and we wanted to do more. A puppetry residency was just the answer.

On the first day of the residency, Steven sat at his isolated desk, tablet in hand. As the class got into groups to discuss situations in which they had felt respected or disrespected, Steven remained alone at his desk, but he traded his tablet for paper and pencil, scribbling furiously. At the end of class, Steven handed in a fully illustrated story: a trip to Steak and Shake for a good report card.

I soon learned that in his ten years, Steven had never spent more than a year at a single school. His challenges with focus and working with others created behavior issues including emotional outbursts, yet on his first day with puppetry, Steven connected with the class assignment.

Over the next few weeks, Steven emerged as a leader. He left his isolated desk and tablet behind to focus on directing others to bring his “Respect” story to life. The same students, who previously looked at Steven with frustration, now sought his guidance.

Respect was so well received, that it was chosen as the main stage show for MicheLee Puppets’ 30th anniversary fundraising breakfast. Steven was selected as one of five students to perform and at our first rehearsal, there he was, surrounded by students talking and laughing. Gone was his desk of isolation. He had found his own “respect.”The principal smiled and said:

“Before MicheLee Puppets, Steven had never chosen to participate in any group activity. Working with the puppets has connected him in a way we could have never imagined.”

You can empower a child like Steven with your tax deductible gift to MicheLee Puppets. If 10 people give $30, we can reach 100 children! Thank you for your support.