Life in East St. Louis – as experienced and written by a few students at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Charter High School – will soon be on stage.
“This year, the students decided to write their own scenes about life in East St. Louis,” said Kathryn Bentley, associate professor in the Department of Theater and Dance, about the second year of her Sankofa Residency at the Charter High School (CHS).
Bentley’s weekly drama workshop gives students the opportunity to express, explore and expand their relationship with writing, acting and themselves. The workshop will conclude with a performance of the student’s work at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 in Building B, Room 2083-84 at the SIUE East St. Louis Center.
The eight-week residency includes a near-peer mentorship model, where Bentley is assisted by three of her theater performance students, seniors Justin Truman, Matthew Anderson and Michael Watkins. It is being supported by the College of Arts and Sciences’ (CAS) Targeted Funding Initiative (TFI) utilizing funding acquired through the College’s Winter Session courses and is supplemented with other CAS internal funds. Initiated by CAS Dean Greg Budzban, PhD, and launched in 2015, the TFI has provided more than $700,000 to faculty and staff.
In one scene, written by budding playwright CHS sophomore Ty’Asia Alls, a native East St. Louisan finds himself trying to broaden his employee’s mind about his hometown.
“Christopher is from East St. Louis, and Marcus was born and raised in Oakland, Calif.,” explained Alls. “There are job opportunities in East St. Louis, but Marcus doesn’t want to go, because he’s heard that East St. Louis is a town full of run-down buildings and crime.”
“People want to say that is all East St. Louis is about, but it is not,” continued Alls. “There are good places here. There are good people here. There are good things happening here.”
“Professor Bentley has had a profound effect on Ty’Asia,” interjected Edith Laktzian, CHS resource teacher. “There was a time when Ty’Asia would barely talk in class. She is an amazing young lady, with great thought and a heart of gold. It has taken some time, peeling her back like an onion. Ms. Bentley and this class haved helped in doing just that.”
The SIUE Charter High School is a school-of-choice for families in the East St. Louis School District 189. The mission of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Charter High School is to prepare students who are career- and college-ready upon graduation. To achieve this mission, the school and its staff will positively impact the educational and economic lives of East St. Louis, Illinois youth through individualized instruction in core academic subjects, exploration of career interests and aptitudes, assistance in realizing students’ talents, high academic goals, and expectations that graduates will become competitive employees for the 21st century.
Central to SIUE’s exceptional and comprehensive education, the College of Arts and Sciences has 19 departments and 85 areas of study. More than 300 full-time faculty/instructors deliver classes to more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty help students explore diverse ideas and experiences, while learning to think and live as fulfilled, productive members of the global community. Study abroad, service-learning, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities better prepare SIUE students not only to succeed in our region’s workplaces, but also to become valuable leaders who make important contributions to our communities.
Kathryn Bentley, associate professor in the Department of Theater and Dance, conducts the second year of her Sankofa Residency at the SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School.
Working on their original scene are CHS freshman Ala Bea (left) and CHS sophomore Ty’Asia Alls.