Success Stories

We could show statistics touting the success of our programs, but statistics can?t measure excitement. They can’t express the wonder of a child or the pride of a parent. For that, you need to hear from the people who benefited from these programs. We hope you enjoy their stories as much as we do.

[learn_more caption=”Middle School Summer Program”] Our daughter had five fun-filled weeks with you and your fantastic staff. Her time was filled with adventure, exercise, hands-on skills and the building of social skills. The opportunity that she was given to connect with her peers prior to coming to a new school and new level of education, middle school, was invaluable. She came home every day with a new story, knowledge and new friends. She had a hard time choosing from the astounding variety of programs and subjects you offered, because so many appealed to her at the same time. Your staff was kind, knowledgeable about their subjects and showed joy in teaching middle schoolers their specialty.

-Mieneke Maher

Both of my children have taken part in the Burlington Summer Program for middle schoolers over the past four years. These summer classes have allowed them to try things they would have not otherwise tried (overnight boating, 4H Dairy, stained glass and fashion design), and gave them something to look forward to during the summer months. I feel very fortunate that my children have had these opportunities.

-Julie Scott Springer

My niece and nephew spent five weeks in the summer program and enjoyed it very much! What they learned in the programs they can use in the future. If the program had not been free, I could not have afforded to send them. These programs made the summer fun and interesting for them.

-Odette Fan

[/learn_more] [learn_more caption=”Healthy City Initiative (Spring, Summer and Fall 2011)”]Garden Educators for Burlington Schools

In spring 2011 Friends of Burlington Gardens (FBG) received a generous $3,000 grant from the Burlington Schools Foundation to hire two enthusiastic and hardworking Garden Educator Interns for the summer season?Erin Jackson and Jessie Mazar?both incoming seniors at the University of Vermont?and awarded as a stipend for more than 600 combined hours of service.

The Garden Educator Interns were part of the larger Healthy City Youth Initiative, a hands-on farm to school program designed to boost physical activity, increase healthy lifestyle choices, and teach basic cooking and gardening skills to Burlington students.

Summer Garden Educators Jessie and Erin split their time between the Youth Farm at Hunt Middle School and garden programs at Burlington High School and the Integrated Arts Academy. Overall, the programs they facilitated reached more than 176 students. In addition, Erin and Jessie coordinated eight field trips to the Youth Farm for elementary students. These groups include the district?s science camp, special education summer school, and the new ABC program based at Edmunds Elementary.

Eight incoming students from Burlington High School joined the Healthy City Summer Program in June. All students met the federal –at-risk definition. All students completed the intensive 8-week program, which focused on planting, tending, and harvesting organic vegetables at school gardens and nearby farms. The teens also learned job and life skills from daily guidance, workshops and discussions. The students were paid minimum wage by the Department of Labor through the Workforce Investment Act. The crew spent approximately 10 hours per week practicing culinary skills with trained chefs from Burlington Schools Food Service and a third culinary intern. Students processed vegetables for the school year; sampled fresh dressings and dips with reduced sodium and fat content at the Old North End Farmer?s Market; and cooked up delicious community meals every week including flatbread, homemade gnocchi, and vegetable tempura.

In addition to working with the youth crew at Hunt, intern Jessie Mazar provided garden-based programming for 18 students in the Summer Transitions Program at Burlington High School every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Designed to create a smooth transition from middle to high school, the five-week Summer Transitions Program aims to bring students to grade level in math and English, as well as teaching basic landscaping skills. Jessie provided a fun and very different element to the program that students loved. They built three new vegetable gardens on campus ? one immediately to the right of the front entrance ? that will heighten student awareness and knowledge about the Burlington School Food Project and other initiatives in the schools

The Healthy City Youth Initiative also expanded programming for elementary school students this season. Erin Jackson worked with 150 students in the school district?s Summer Opportunities Academics & Enrichment Program (SOAR) based at the Integrated Arts Academy at HO Wheeler. SOAR participants gain critical reading and math skills through five weeks of high-quality, project-based academic programming and theme-based enrichment activities and fieldtrips. Erin and Madina Arbow, a third year Healthy City student, worked with SOAR participants every week, providing garden-based taste test and other activities. Madina was a tremendous asset to the program because she knew many of the students and even spent a handful of unpaid hours preparing for lessons.

By integrating food education and hands-on gardening into the schools, the program enables teachers, students, food service staff, and others in the community to learn about some of the most critical issues facing our future. These include the importance of a physically active lifestyle, ways that delicious, nutritious foods can be affordable, the value of being connected to the natural world, and the overall importance of shared activities where everyone has a sense of belonging.
The Healthy City Youth Initiative increases access to fresh, healthy food for low-income residents and exposes more young people to active lifestyles. Good nutrition habits are an important element in disease prevention and long-term health. This program also fosters a high level of student engagement and community participation that are vital to civic engagement.

This high level of student engagement would not have been possible without the support of the Burlington Schools Foundation. Our partnership allowed hundreds of students to benefit from rewarding and enriching time learning and exploring in their school gardens.

[/learn_more] [learn_more caption=”Robin Hood at CP Smith (Spring 2010) “] Preparing for, rehearsing and presenting two performances of the musical Robin Hood at CP Smith Elementary had a notable impact on faculty, staff, parents and students. After a performance, one parent exclaimed, ?I cried because I had never heard that child speak without a stutter!? A faculty member commented, ?I had no idea the performance would be of such high caliber.? A para-educator marveled that among her first-grade students ?all eyes were glued to the actors on stage.? A fourth grader exclaimed, ?I never knew my friend could sing!?
Given the success of this musical, there is now a cohort of faculty who will welcome in-school musical theater workshops. Teachers witnessed the positive impacts of reading and memorizing scripts, play practice and singing on students? language skill development, especially for students who speak English as a second language.
The most notable impacts were on student confidence and teamwork. Students who were afraid to stand in front of others and speak, spoke. Students who thought they couldn?t sing, sang. Students who never played together during recess acted together on stage. Students who easily memorized their lines helped others who had trouble memorizing. Students who couldn?t memorize found other solutions through teamwork. Together students celebrated their accomplishments by yelling ?Yes!? each time the curtain closed.

[/learn_more] [learn_more caption=”Wizard of Oz at JJ Flynn (spring 2010)”] Thank you for helping us with the production of the Wizard of Oz. It was mesmerizing to watch the changes in the children as they found their power and voice on the stage. It was a true collaboration among the students, the dozens of parents involved; community members, Flynn alumni, staff and administrators; and of course, the leadership of the VMT. We showed that we truly are a community focused on our biggest asset ? our children.

Productions such as the Wizard of Oz cost a fair bit of money and endless hours of volunteer labor, but they also have the power to forge deep connections among students, caring adults and families. More than 120 children and 140 adult volunteers took part in this play! The play was a huge success and a great community builder.

-Kate Belluche
Flynn PTO

[/learn_more]

[learn_more caption=”BHS Student Theater Interns”]In 2008, the Burlington High School Drama Club teamed with Vermont?s renowned Very Merry Theatre Company to create the BHS Drama Interns Program. The initiative, powered by BSF grants, deploys experienced Drama Club students into the community to support children?s theater projects, teach skills and mentor younger children.

Last year, this unique collaboration provided paid and volunteer internship opportunities for 36 high school students who worked directly on theatrical productions and other programs in seven Burlington schools. BHS Drama Interns also supported projects at six independent community organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of Burlington, Burlington Parks and Recreation, Burlington Summer School at the Integrated Arts Academy, the Greater Burlington YMCA, the New North End Youth Center and the Sara Holbrook Community Center/Barnes World Academy.

?This is a great program with a great deal of impact,? said Don Wright, VMT Executive Director. ?The interns are quality hands on deck and significantly expand what we can do with a children?s theater project. They have real skills that are being passed on to the younger children, not to mention the invaluable mentoring experiences we?ve seen taking place over the two years the program has been in place.?

?We are thrilled to have our students participate in this program,? said Leesa Guay-Timpson, faculty adviser to the BHS Drama Club. ?It gives them an opportunity to give something back to the community, work with children and exercise some of their skills in putting together theatrical productions.?

BHS boasts one of the most respected high school drama programs in the state, and its student members develop capabilities across a wide range of areas. During the 2009-10 school year interns supported 18 projects that touched more than 750 children at the elementary- and middle-school levels.[/learn_more]

[learn_more caption=”Sound of Music at LC Hunt Middle School (spring 2011)”] The lights went black and the tittering sounds of the Hunt Middle School auditorium hushed to quiet. Thirty five students tiptoed through the back door, into the darkness with candlelight, small bulbs surrounding each performer in a halo of light. They bordered the unsuspecting audience from behind, and sang The Sound of Music.

After two years without a musical, the drama program returned to Hunt Middle School with the help of a grant from the Burlington Students Foundation and the artists of Very Merry Theatre. This joyful revival to the performing arts would not have been possible without the support of these two organizations.

One 6th grade nun, whose family comes from Tanzania, beamed about her singing solo, ?I liked performing the best because everyone said I sang the loudest. I felt happy and excited. I was surprised people said that to me because I wasn’t the biggest part. I thought people would only say that to the leads. People cheered for me.? The grant money allowed students to get experience with Very Merry artists like Ashley O’Brien, the musical director, who helped each child work with the music and find the potential in their voice.

Another student who played a lead role had this say about her experience: ?The first full show was my favorite. The whole cast was close and friendly. I got know the 6th graders and I hadn’t talked to them much. I’m still friends with a lot of them.?

Very Merry Theatre created a sense of community among the students at Hunt , but it also expanded that feeling beyond the student body. Older sisters came to help with make-up. High school actors helped students learn how to say their lines with emotion. Parents ran the green room, made costumes, worked lights and sound, played in the orchestra, and built the set. People with no previous affiliation with Hunt Middle School came to see the show.

Fund raising (beyond the Burlington Students Foundation grant) was also centered around community. Parents raised money through a ziti dinner on Friday night. At intermission, the doors to the lobby opened and people enjoyed a bake sale with cheese, fruit, and cupcakes. Students leafed through the playbill that was available for a donation. These efforts raised, approximately, an additional two thousand dollars for the play. A spread sheet with details is included, but the money mainly paid for the $4700 bill from Very Merry Theatre.

The Hunt PTO and Very Merry Theatre plan to work together again next year to bring a Shakespeare one act and a spring musical to Hunt Middle School. Fundraising will have to increase before the drama program becomes completely self sustaining, but great interest was generated this year and we are on our way.

After intermission each night new students filled the roles of Maria, the Captain, and children. In the vision of Don Wright, the artistic director, every child got a moment to feel like they were a Broadway star. No one was cut from the show and thirty-five students practiced for six weeks, dedicating themselves to rehearsals two to three times per week that lasted several hours. Here’s what a student who played one of the Von Trapp children had to say: ?Karen Amirault (the dance choreographer for the show) is really funny and I never knew an adult could do a split before I met her. I learned some really cool dances and I learned how to waltz. I liked learning actual dance moves.? The students performed the musical three times including a shortened version for the entire school, and a Friday and Saturday night performance.

Students were given the opportunity to learn about skills behind the scenes as well. Here’s what another student had to say about working on the crew: ?I liked running back stage and helping and making sure everything went well. I learned how to use the sound board and the spotlight. I liked how I got to control the sounds and learning how you had to push up the button for the lights to go on. It was a great experience.?

The reinstatement of a musical at Hunt Middle School brought students, parents and the community together in celebration of the performing arts. The Hunt Middle School PTO is very thankful for the grant money from Burlington Schools Foundation. It was indeed a great experience for our students. Thank you.

Hannah Mitchell

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band, Basketball
I joined the Sound of Music cast because I like acting.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (star), Wizard of Oz (Good Witch)

Other Theater experience: How to Eat Like a Child (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: Don Wright for being a great director!

Matheu Heynay

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Soccer, Track

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like acting.

Other Theater experience: Robin Hood (CP Smith), New Moon (Champlain Elementary)

I would like to thank: Hunt school and Very Merry Theater

Madeleine Tremblay

Grade: 6

Team: Odyssey

Hunt Activities: Chorus

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I love acting and the Sound of Music

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (star), Wizard of Oz (Scarecrow)

I would like to thank: Everybody at Very Merry Theater

Sophie Weisman-Rowell

Grade: 6

Team: Odyssey

Hunt Activities: Strings

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I enjoyed being in the play Robin Hood and I wanted to do another musical.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Robin Hood (Robin Hood)

I would like to thank: Don Wright, my family and the cast.

Jean MacBride

Grade: 8

Team: Oasis

Hunt Activities: Band

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like drama.

Other Theater experience: Middle School (Hunt), Gone With the Breeze (Hunt) Dylan

Sayamouangkhua

Grade: 7

Team: Oasis

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band, Track, Cross-country

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like drama and I like the songs.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (Hook), Pinocchio (Weasle), A Comedy of Errors

Other Theater experience: How to Eat Like a Child (Flynn School), Alice In Wonderland (Flynn)

Emin Alicic

Grade: 7

Team: Phoenix

Hunt Activities: Chorus

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I wanted to broaden my drama experience.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (Michael), Mid-Summer Night’s Dream (Lysander), Playing With the Band (Romeo)

Other Theater experience: Gone With the Breeze (Hunt) I would like to thank: Everyone who helped with the play!

Justina Chambers

Grade: 8

Team: Oasis

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Strings

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I have the movie and I thought it would be fun.

I would like to thank: My mom for supporting me in the play!

Adriyel Gogerly-Moragoda

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Wizard of Oz (Guard)

Ryan Croxford

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Strings, Soccer

I would like to thank: My mom for all of her support!

Emma Perry

Grade: 6

Team: Odyssey

Hunt Activities: Strings

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like to act.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (star), Wizard of Oz (Monkey)

Other Theater experience: Little Chick (Turkey Lurkey)

I would like to thank: my Mom for helping me out with plays.

Haven Williams

Grade: 8

Team: Solstice

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band, Track

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I wanted to try theater and learn to act.

Other Theater experience: CP Smith play

Phillip Gulick

Grade: 6

Team: Odyssey

Hunt Activities: Soccer, Lacrosse, Chorus, Band

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like drama and I find it fun to be on stage. It is also a good way to spend time.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Wizard of Oz (Professor Markel)

Other Theater experience: Robin Hood & Peter Pan in Germany

I would like to thank: Don Wright, Ashley and Karen for setting up all the acts, dances and songs.

Jeff Peterson

Grade: 7

Team: Solstice

Hunt Activities: Cross-country, Track, Band

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I had lots of fun with my previous Very Merry Theater experiences.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Hairspray (Link Larkin), Peter Pan (Lighting)

Other Theater experience: Destination Imagination (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: Don Wright for providing us with such a great experience!

Leena Unger

Grade: 7

Team: Oasis

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Soccer

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I love acting and my friends wanted to do it with me.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (Mermaid)

Other Theater experience: How to Eat Like a Child (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: My friends who have made this really fun!

Jessie Mills

Grade: 8

Team: Phoenix

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Strings, Track

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I enjoy acting and singing.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: The Hobbit (Goblin), The Lost Prince (Spy), Narnia (Farsight the Eagle)

I would like to thank: Don, Karen and Ashley for making sure that this play succeeds.

Caroline O’Shea

Grade: 6

Team: Odyssey

Hunt Activities: Soccer, Band, Basketball

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like acting and it’s a good way to spend your time.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (Fairy), Wizard of Oz (Aunt Em)

Other Theater experience: Alice in Wonderland (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: The Very Merry Theater for their time.

Anna Messinger

Grade: 6

Team: Odyssey

Hunt Activities: Soccer, Chorus

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like acting.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Pinocchio (Puppet), Wizard of Oz (Wicked Witch), Romeo & Juliet (Rosaline)

Other Theater experience: How To Eat Like A Child (Flynn School), Peter Pan (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: Don, Ashley and Karen for helping with the show.

Alex LauQuan

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Soccer, Band, Chorus, Hockey

I joined the Sound of Music cast: to enjoy the experience.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (Pirate), Wizard of Oz (Wicked Witch)

I would like to thank: My family and my friends for supporting me!

Gwen Baruth

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Chorus

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I love acting.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (Nana and Indian), Wizard of Oz (Glinda), Hairspray (Amber Von Tussle)

I would like to thank: The Very Merry Theater.

Sarah McNamara

Grade: 8

Team: Oasis

Hunt Activities: Soccer, Chorus

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like acting and it sounded like this play would be fun and it wouldn’t flop.

Other Theater experience: Memorial Auditorium plays.

I would like to thank: My friends, even though I couldn’t convince them to act, my family for putting up with my
singing and line practicing!

Sarah likes: reading, acting and spending time with her friends.

Andrianna Maher

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Soccer, Field Hockey, Softball, Yearbook

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I really love The Sound of Music and I wanted to do a musical! Plus I get a lot of solos.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Romeo & Juliet (Paris & Donetella)

Other Theater experience: Ask Me (St. Joseph’s), A Very Hairy Play (St. Joseph’s)

I would like to thank: My family for listening to me singing the song A LOT!!!!!!! My old school director for teaching me my great talents at acting. Thanks!

Jeannette Ndihokubwayo

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I love to do plays and I love singing.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Robin Hood (Maid Marian)

I would like to thank: All of the teachers for helping us get this play at Hunt!

Khadija Bangoura

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Band, Chorus

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I love acting and the Very Merry Theater.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (Mermaid), Wizard of Oz (Tin Man), A Comedy of Errors (Dromino)

Other Theater experience: Alice in Wonderland (Summer Camp), How To Eat Like A Child (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: Don, Ashley, Karen and all the grown-ups who helped.

Maddie Murray

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band

I joined the Sound of Music cast: so I could do what I love, acting.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Peter Pan (Fairy), Wizard of Oz (Flying Monkey)

I would like to thank: My friends for convincing me to do this play.

Pamela Bristow-Johnson

Grade: 6

Team: Nova Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I wanted to be in the school play and I love acting!

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Hairspray (Penny), Little Women (Aunt March), 101 Dalmations (Perdita)

Other Theater Experience: Drama Club (Summer Camp), How To Eat Like A Child (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: Don, Ashley, Trish and Karen

Olivia Nadworny

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band

I joined the Sound of Music Cast because: I love acting and singing and it is fun.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Wizard of Oz (Dorothy), Hairspray (Tracy), Peter Pan (Indian)

Other Theater experience: Are We There Yet? (Lyric Theater)

I would like to thank: Don, Ashley and Karen for encouraging us to do our best.

Mabel Prine

Grade: 7

Team: Solstice

Hunt Activities: Soccer

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I decided to sign up because I love doing group activities and I also really like acting.

Other Theater experience: Pandora’s Box (Fletcher Free Library)

I would like to thank: Lenna Unger for convincing me to sign up!

Anders Ode

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Cross-country, Chorus, Band

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like acting and I love the message of the Sound of Music. I would
love to see Hunt students bring it to life.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Wizard of Oz (Lion), Aladdin (Aladdin), Romeo and Juliet (Romeo)

Other Theater experience: Peter Pan (Flynn Stage), Summer Camps

I would like to thank: My family, Don and all the supportive parents and the cast for their courage.

Kathryn Winn

Grade: 8

Team: Solstice

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Track, Orchestra, Field Hockey

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I love acting.

Other Theater experience: How to Eat Like a Child (Flynn School), Alice in Wonderland (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: My mom and dad,Very Merry Theater and my friends.

Esse Luna-Maple

Grade: 7

Team: Phoenix

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like to sing.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Pirates of Penzance

Other Theater experience: Annie (Champlain), Once on This Island (Champlain), Seussical (Champlain)

I would like to thank: My mom and dad and my best friend Lila!

Lilah Fitch

Grade: 6

Team: Odyssey

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I like to sing and act and I LOVE to perform on stage.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Wizard of Oz (Glinda), Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hiploita and Titania)

I would like to thank: Ashley because she has helped me feel more confident when I sing.

Andrea Magba

Grade: 6

Team: Odyssey

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Strings

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I love singing and acting.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Wizard of Oz (Dorothy), Little Women (Clarissa)

Other Theater experience: How to Eat Like a Child (Flynn School)

I would like to thank: My family, friends and every actress and actor in the world.

Hannah LaBounty

Grade: 6

Team: Nova

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Band, Basketball, Field Hockey

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: it seemed like a great way to meet new people and a good learning experience.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Robin Hood (Chorus and Tree)

Alex Spencer

Grade: 7

Team: Phoenix

Hunt Activities: Chorus, Madrigals

I joined the Sound of Music cast because: I love the play and I love to act and sing.

Previous Very Merry Theater experience: Tom Sawyer (Becky), Romeo and Juliet (Princess Adelina), Midsummer Night’s Dream

I would like to thank: my mom for getting me into the theater at an early age.[/learn_more]