Editor's Note: This is second in a series of related blog posts.
Sensationalized news reports on the negative doings of young people here in Cherokee, Georgia and even in the U.S. can have most of us wringing our hands, wondering what our future is to be in the hands of such wrongdoers. My personal experience leads me to believe that our future is secure, thanks to the positive impact a good many young people are having on our community, our state and our world. Most of those who will be influential in making a positive contribution are already doing so, and this series of blogs will attempt to present them in the same positive light they spread with their activism in the community and beyond.
Adam Casey is a 28-year-old fifth grade teacher at Rocky Mount Elementary in Cobb County, and he's a resident of Woodstock. He is also a gifted singer and regularly performs with his father, brother and others in a musical group called H.I.S., blessing audiences with soaring harmonic renditions of popular spiritual songs. Yet each summer, when other teachers embrace six to seven weeks of vacation and spend time traveling, spending time with family and otherwise amusing themselves, Adam can be found organizing and executing Drama Days Camp, a two-week adventure in the entire creative dramatic process, which is open to rising fifth-graders through rising 10th graders. The kids meet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day for two weeks during the camp. Adam and his staff contribute significantly more time. Why would someone who devotes most of his year to teaching want to give up his free time during the summer to help children embrace the creativity of a drama camp? That's what I wanted to find out!
When I approached Adam about the "why," his response was this - "Originally, I started the camp to find something to do during the summer, so I wasn't just sitting at home. It has become much more than that now and something I look forward to all year! I love working with kids who can find their home on the stage and be whoever they want to be. There are no limitations at Drama Days Camp!"
His excitement over the project is infectious. After we established the "why," I was curious about the age range of the kids, as it seemed to me to be a fairly diverse group. Adam went on to explain that "the older kids mentor the younger ones. They teach them so much!" Drama Days Camp, during the two-week process, gives all the children a chance to produce a musical which is presented to the community (for a small admission fee), following the camp. The production process allows for hands-on experience with music and script, building of sets and set design, the intricacies of sound and lighting, duties of a prop master, ticketing, advertising, promotion and more. Throughout the camp, a cooperative spirit is fostered with an emphasis on how to work together to reach a common goal.
Adam searches each year to find the perfect venue for the camp. This year, it was housed at Mountain View United Methodist Church in Marietta. Adam points out that this is by no means a one-man operation, quickly stating "I have the best Assistant Director anyone could ask for in Brittany Daugherty, a graduate of Woodstock High School and currently a senior at Kennesaw State University." Brittany has worked with Adam side-by-side for the five years that Drama Days Camp has been operating. "Each year, we are amazed by the talent our students give us," he says.
When asked how he might envision expanding the program, Casey replied, "I suppose it would be my dream to open a small and localized performing arts studio to celebrate the talent we have in the community. In my camp alone, I have had students continue on to larger stages. Some have even made their way into specialized performing arts schools. We have so much talent in the community, and one of the goals of Drama Days Camp is to celebrate and showcase that talent. Next year, we will be adding a new component to the camp under the Drama Days name. It will be called 'Drama Days Cabaret.' Students will complete a week-long intensive program and will produce a showcase at the end of the week that will include various solos and 'Glee'-style group numbers."
Yes, the owning and running of Drama Days Camp is certainly outside the scope of Adam Casey's traditional duties as a fifth-grade teacher. However, his drive and ambition with regard to celebrating and showcasing the talents of the youth of Cherokee and surrounding areas is matched only by his admiration of the youth involved. He is a perfect example of what young people with leadership ability, positive ideas and ambition can accomplish. He carries his organization and management abilities from the classroom and turns them into talent on the stage, with the enthusiasm of one who watches young people blossom in the creative environment. The excitement he and Brittany share over this project is palpable and contagious.
Productions thus far have included "Schoolhouse Rocks! Live!," "Seussical The Musical," "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "High School Musical," and "Pirates of Penzance." In 2013, the camp will see both a musical and the cabaret-style show produced. The camp fills up fast, and early registration is encouraged in order to ensure a reserved space. If you're interested in knowing more about Drama Days Camp, you can go to their website at www.dramadayscamp.com.
Adam Casey is a great example of a young person who reinforces my belief that we have plenty of positive role models making an impact in the world. It is precisely because of younger folks like him and Brittany that I don't worry one bit about who will lead us in the future. My hope is that in reading these stories, your days may be a bit more positive as well.