About 170 Aiken County students are spending the first part of their summer break at Schofield Middle School learning more about what they love: the arts.
acGATEWAY, Gifted and Talented Education with Artistic Youth, is a program offered by Aiken County Public Schools. It provides specialized instruction to students in third through 12th grade in creative writing, dance, theater, music and visual arts, depending on the participant’s area of interest, director Joseph Laorenza said.
To participate, the students must apply and audition.
This year’s program kicked off June 6. In its 27th year, Gateway often sees many students return year after year, he noted.
Such is the case for several participants from North Augusta.
Brian Yonn, 14, has attended the program each summer since the summer after fourth grade. Yonn focuses on music and has chosen guitar and trombone.
“I thought it would help me grow more in music,” said the rising North Augusta High School freshman.
“It exposes you to a lot of different things and it challenges you to become a better musician.”
Taryn Marks, a rising sixth-grader at North Augusta Middle School, has participated in the program for three years with a focus on dance.
“We learn many different types like modern, jazz, hip hop and tap,” said the 11-year-old. “I like all of them.”
Though the program is fun, its also something she takes seriously.
“I want to become a professional dancer one day, so I want to learn as much as I can,” she said.
An interesting thing about the program is that everyone is passionate about learning about the arts, said Hailea Ambrose, a rising 11th-grader at North Augusta High.
“Everyone wants to be here. There are a lot of things people can do during the summer, but we chose to be here,” said the 16-year-old. “You make a lot of friends who encourage you to achieve in the arts.”
Hailea first entered the program in fifth grade with a focus on music, but ever since, she has focused on visual arts.
acGATEWAY for the first year are already looking forward to attending again.
Shelby Rucker, a rising sixth-grader at Paul Knox Middle School, wanted to participate to expand her art ability, she said.
“I’ve always loved art,” said the 11-year-old. “You can express your feelings through what you do.”
This summer, she’s learned about sculpting, which she often does at home, and painting and abstract art.
For self-proclaimed “drama queen” Amanda Benjamin, she’s enjoyed learning how to improve her acting.
“You get to do stuff you can’t do at school,” said the 14-year-old rising freshman at North Augusta High. “It’s been exciting because you meet a lot of talented people and you learn from each other.”
The public will have an opportunity to see the results of the hard work the students have put in this summer during two showcases.
The elementary school showcase will be held 7 p.m. Thursday at Schofield Middle School and the middle/high school showcase will be at 7 p.m. July 5.
Both showcases are free and open to the public.
“It’s a great night to see how talented our students are and how much they’ve learned,” said Laorenza.
“The students are excited about it and we encourage the public to come out and join us.”