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Enjoy Magazine

South Shasta County Youth Arts

09/25/2014 12:00AM ● By Kimberly Boney

Pay it Forward

By Kimberly Boney

The boy was riddled with nervousness as he waited for the curtain to open. He took a deep breath, was suddenly enveloped by calmness and transformed before the eyes of an awestruck crowd. He shed his layers of shyness and left it all on the stage, and the room erupted in cheers and jubilation.

This is the experience of many a performance artist. Some of the world’s most accomplished singers, dancers, musicians and thespians are often some of the most shy people off stage. They aren’t the athletes in the spotlight or the effortlessly popular kids who seem to stop time when they enter a room. These performance artists are wildly creative, introspective and often crave a sense of belonging that isn’t always offered to them in the realm of traditional education.

This notion was the impetus for the creation of the South Shasta County Children’s Choir. Founded in 2009 by Nancy Dutton, Amy Hughes and Deborah Divine for Shasta County students in grades 2- 8, the choir filled a void left by budget cuts in performing arts for students at the elementary and middle school levels.

In 2011, the choir joined forces with the performing arts booster clubs of schools in the Anderson Union High School District, including Anderson Union High School, West Valley High School, and Anderson New Technology High School. This umbrella program would encompass students from age 6-18 with a passion for performing arts. And so, South Shasta County Youth Arts (SSCYA) was born, acquired its 501(c)3 nonprofit status, and began giving young, local performing artists a place to shine.

“There are performing arts students in our area that didn’t really have anything to call their own, and this organization has become that for them,” says Becky Roe, Board President of SSCYA.
The SSCYA is a fun, creative and passion-filled environment which nurtures young singers, dancers, musicians and actors, with diversity in age and performance experience. But something more has come out of this union - a unique opportunity for growth, leadership, mentorship and selflessness for everyone involved.

Aside from the incredible performances coming from this talented group of 200-250 performers,
Roe says what is most inspiring is the system of support SSCYA has created in the students. It’s seeing schools that are traditionally considered “rivals” join forces and become a part of a close-knit family that extends past performing arts students to reach out to so many others.

“It’s seeing those high school students who have been a part of the program mentoring the younger ones. You don’t hear that about teenagers often enough. They are taking their time – whether they are helping backstage or with vocal, dance or acting coaching – to help others. They are fully invested. At that age, their worlds can be very small. So to see them step out of themselves, it’s incredible. They are learning how to be leaders within their peer groups. They are becoming better prepared for the world. They are making plans and decisions,” Roe says.

One of the first decisions that SSCYA students made was to create Play It Forward, a fundraiser intended to help a community member or organization in need. The first beneficiary was one of their own, Raven Chavez, a former student of Anderson High School’s choir program that was severely injured after a major car accident. The event began organically in 2012, as the students saw an opportunity to be kind to someone else and stepped up. This act of selflessness was a providential start to one of the annual events the students are most passionate about.

The kids are always on the lookout for who they can help with their now annual benefit concert.

The third annual Play it Forward will take place Sunday, Oct. 12 at the Anderson High School Performing Arts Center. Each $6 ticket includes dinner, and proceeds will be donated to a person or organization in need, as determined by the Anderson Union High School District Performing Arts Student Leadership team.

It’s no wonder that the students of SSCYA are passionate about using their talents to serve others. It’s an example that has been set for them in the innumerable selfless – and unpaid – acts of the teachers, directors, consultants and board members involved with SSCYA. Countless other students, parents, teachers and community volunteers have donated inordinate amounts of time to this organization. The collective payoff can be seen in the performances and can be felt through the familial bond and the overriding, far-reaching joy of the students – a joy that comes from having a sense of “home.” And for everyone involved with SSCYA, that payoff is priceless.

For a full list of upcoming fundraisers and performances, to purchase season passes and tickets, or to become a sponsor, visit

OktoberFEST: Harvest of the Arts - Second Annual Fundraiser
Dinner for SSCYA: Friday, October 3 at 6:00 pm
The White House at Churn Creek Golf Course

Third Annual Play It Forward: Sunday, October 12 at 3:00 pm
Anderson Union High School Performing Arts Center