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The Penguin Project

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Established in 2004, The Penguin Project has evolved into a National program, with Chapter sites throughout the United States. The program provides a supportive environment for children with disabilities to explore their creative talents.  It has also demonstrated that participation in the performing arts has therapeutic value by enhancing social interaction, communication skills, self-confidence and self-esteem. The impact of the program has reached beyond the stage to create a social network for children who previously had very few friends and limited social opportunities.

Rise Up Arts Alliance is home to the first Chapter of Penguin Project in Ohio, beginning in 2023.  The first production was "Annie, Jr."

Goals

  • Provide an opportunity for children with special needs to develop creative skills related to the theater arts

  • Provide an opportunity for children with special needs to participate in a community theater experience

  • Facilitate interaction between children with special needs and their age-level peers through joint participation in a community theater experience

  • Facilitate an appreciation of the challenges faced by children with special needs and their families

  • Identify the impact of a community theater experience on the communication skills, socialization, and self-esteem of children with special needs

  • Facilitate interaction among medical, developmental, educational, and theater professionals through participation in a common community project

  • Provide a forum for support and interaction for families of children with special needs

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Impact

The Penguin Project not only impacts our participants while at the theater, it changes their lives and the lives of everyone around them.  Following the production a survey is taken by all participants and their parents.  Below is some of the information we have gathered:

  • 96% of surveyed artists and mentors reported feeling more proud of themselves since being a part of the Penguin Project.

  • 86% of artists reported improvement in doing things on their own since being a part of the Penguin Project

  • 80% of mentors reported feeling “a lot better” about others being different from themselves since participating in this program.

  • Over 70% of artists reported finding it easier to be friends with kids without disabilities since being a part of the Penguin Project.

  • All participating artists reported improvement in singing, dancing, music, and acting.

  • Over 70% of mentors reported finding it easier to stand up for themselves since being a part of the Penguin Project.

  • 100% of participating parents reported they experienced growth in connections with other families with kids with disabilities, as well as new friendships.

  • 95% of parents reported growth in their knowledge of services and support for individuals with disabilities.

  • 80% of parents reported growth in their children in feeling a sense of belongingness.

  • 67% reported their children are now more comfortable speaking in front of a group. 

  • All participating parents of mentors reported their children are more accepting of differences in others since being a part of the Penguin Project.

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