ImprovBoston Awarded Grant for Anti-Bullying Residency at Umana Academy

ImprovBoston Awarded Grant for Anti-Bullying Residency at Umana Academy

ImprovBoston's industry-leading anti-bullying training returns to the Umana Academy in East Boston, building a culture of support and trust. Interactive sessions use the art of improvisation to challenge fourth and fifth grade students to see the value in embracing differences. Young Audiences of Massachusetts received a grant for the nonprofit comedy theater and school to continue working with the Umana Academy in 2014.

Over six weeks Nils Vaule, one of ImprovBoston's Anti-Bullying educators, will work with students and teachers to develop a classroom environment that fosters support while reducing negative attitudes students can have toward themselves, their peers and their teachers. The residency program culminates in a showcase where the students show off their new real-life improv skills at a school assembly.

Deana Criess, residency program creator and originator of ImprovBoston's Anti-Bullying program, shares, "The concept is simple. We want to show students that a positive community is much more fun to be a part of than a negative one. When students actually feel what it's like to be a part of that community, they will no longer gravitate toward negative, cruel, or bullying behavior." Where most anti-bullying programs focus mainly on the dangerous consequences of bullying, improvisation allows students to explore the powerful rewards of embracing "Yes And"--the improv philosophy that encourages building on each others' ideas. Stoking the fire of collaboration and genuine enthusiasm, ImprovBoston helps students discover what lies beyond the "don't bully" lesson by providing a model for how to connect to each other through respect, listening, confidence and laughter.

ImprovBoston began its partnership with the Umana Academy last year, leading three sessions of anti-bullying workshops with 7th graders over the course of the school year. Through this residency, ImprovBoston helped students to become role models leading change for the rest of the middle school. This year, ImprovBoston brings the applied techniques of improvisation to fourth and fifth graders, further spreading the message of community-wide support both in and out of the classroom.

Kim Dawson, Executive Director of Young Audiences Massachusetts, says, "By using the fun, creative, and positive tactics to build teamwork and have young people discuss the sensitive issue of bullying, ImprovBoston's work brings students and teachers together through the understanding of how we are all similar, as opposed to highlighting our differences. We are thrilled to be building this important work."

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