Assistance League awards arts grants to elementary schools

Sulphur Springs Elementary school students dance with the Power House dance team on stage during an assembly made possible by the Assistance League on Monday, March 20, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Sulphur Springs Community School’s Multipurpose Room filled with cheers, claps and taps as the three-member group of POWERHOUSE!!! performed for the elementary school Monday morning.

“We dance to exercise, we dance to celebrate and we dance to communicate,” performer Brian Bon said to the audience.  “Hopefully some of you take see a dance class after seeing this.”

The educational dance assembly was sponsored by Assistance League Santa Clarita through its new Arts Grants program, which awarded grants to three elementary schools within the Sulphur Springs Union School District.

Sulphur Springs Elementary students put their hands in the air during an assembly with Power House dance on Monday, March 20, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Gayle Abril-Nolet, Assistance League’s vice president of philanthropic programs and a retired school principal from Sulphur Springs District, said the organization chose to bring grant-funded assemblies to the district in order to give back to local schools and support arts education.

“A lot of times for these kids, this will be their only exposure to dance or this type of performance,” Abril-Nolet said.  “In the next three days we’re going to be touching about 1,800 lives.”

To select the Arts Grant winners, a four-member committee from Assistance League read all nine applications and chose three schools—Sulphur Springs Community School, Mitchell Community School and Mint Canyon Community School—as recipients.

“We were originally only going to select two schools but we were so touched by what the schools had to say and their need that we ended up granting three schools,” she said.

The organization worked with an education specialist from the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center’s PAC K-12 program and Sulphur Springs’ Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Kathy Harris to select the POWERHOUSE!!! assembly for the three schools.

Megan Laub of Power House jumps in the air during a dance routine at Sulphr Springs Elementary on Monday, March 20, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

“We said, ‘What’s something that is very exciting, that kids would really remember and would be inclusive?’ and we can up with this,” Abril-Nolet said.

During the performance, the dancing group shared the history and music of clogging, tapping and Irish dancing and taught the students the definitions of percussion, rhythm, tempo and a Capella.

“You have to have more than one sound with space between them,” Bon said as he taught the audience how to clap at different speeds to make various rhythms.

In addition to the educational arts assemblies, Assistance League provided each school library with books about dance styles and history.

In the future, the organization hopes to bring the Arts Grants to schools at different districts throughout Santa Clarita.

“We have it in our budget to expand this and if it’s approved by our membership then it’s something we’d like to see across the whole valley,” Abril-Nolet said.  “What we want do is support the districts… and complement each district’s curriculum.”

With the various assemblies, Abril-Nolet hopes the students are exposed to an additional form of arts education and remember Assistance League as an organization that can help provide families with eyeglasses and school clothes and shoes.

“I hope that they go home and say guess what I saw today and tap their little feet and maybe, just maybe, they’ll remember the words Assistance League,” she said.

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