$750,000 grant will help start new threatre program for girls

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INDIANAPOLIS - Girls between the ages of eight and 18 enrolled in the Boys & Girls Club of Indianapolis can soon take part in a new trauma-informed, healing-centered, therapeutic theatre program.

It's made possible through a $750,000 grant from the Women's Fund of Central Indiana, a special interest fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation.

The money will be distributed over three years to the Asante Children's Theatre, which has worked with children and adults in the performing arts for nearly 30 years.

The money will create the Sankofa Paradigm Program.

"Sankofa is a word that talks about looking back in order to go forward," said Deborah Asante, the founding artistic director at the children's theatre. "Learning from your past to make a better future."

The money was raised last year through ticket sales of "A Moderated Conversation With Former First Lady Michelle Obama," held last year in February by the Women's Fund of Central Indiana.

"They can explore some of these emotional, mental health issues with a fictional character and many of these girls will come from a background of trauma," said Julie Koegel, the grants officer with the Women's Fund of Central Indiana. "So, they can learn how to be more mentally healthy."

Koegel said approximately 130 girls can go through the program each year. Participants will receive a variety of mental health services before, during, and after their six-week session of the program.

"We recognize that those young folks are dealing with trauma and really serious issues in their lives," said Boys & Girls Club of Indianapolis CEO, Maggie Lewis. "To have Asante come in and work with our young ladies in a manner that is probably different than the traditional way of dealing with trauma, this is exciting for us to do story-telling, and to act out their feelings in a safe environment."

Lewis said the Sankofa Paradigm Program will take place at the Finish Line Boys & Girls Club located on Post Road. She hoped the program would be successful and grow to more clubs following the three year grant.

Asante said the goal is to start the program in September. Exact performance locations are still being decided.

The event with Obama raised $1 million. The final $250,000 raised was awarded to Bellfound Farm, an Women's Fund initiative. It works with ex-offenders to equip women with skills to help them achieve economic security.

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