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Strengthening Character, Confidence and Community: The Power of Performing Arts

By Carey McLaughlin | October 27, 2021 | Community Health, Community Partners, Investments

Photo by @patrickkea

Understanding the true power of the performing arts requires looking beyond the flashing lights of the stage.

Countless hours of training, enthusiastic performers and a supportive atmosphere are what make up TheGifted Arts. Founded by husband-and-wife duo Nicholé and CJ Morgan, the program was established to meet the needs of historically underserved students (3rd-12th grade) who do not have access to culturally relevant performing arts resources.

Through the performing arts, TheGifted Arts teaches life skills, encourages self-expression and empowers leadership opportunities with local youth across Raleigh.

Nourishing unique, well-rounded performers

Michael Lassiter, better known as “Hollywood” among his performance community, is 15 years old and pursuing a career in dancing and acting. Following in the footsteps of his older siblings, Michael joined TheGifted Arts at age 8, eager to join the stage as a performer after watching many times from the audience.

“My interest in the arts has allowed me to follow my dreams and make a career out of doing what I love,” said Michael. “Dance has also taught me dedication, patience and hard work. People in the audience only tend to see what we show them. What they don’t see is all the work, time and energy put into curating a performance.”

Training for several hours each week, TheGifted Arts keeps students engaged, conditioned and physically active, which overall contributes to a healthier lifestyle.

“The desire to be an optimal performer strongly encourages a health-conscious mindset, be it by their food choices or desire to move,” said Nicholé. “Ultimately, we cultivate an environment where all children can be safe, seen and celebrated, which is paramount to a child’s holistic development and life satisfaction.”

Michael "Hollywood Lassiter
Founders Nicholé and CJ Morgan

Creating a safe place for expression

TheGifted Arts creates a safe space for young people, majority of color. A space where they can explore their identity, discover their purpose and greatness, and cultivate skills that allow them to succeed in all areas of life.

Michael says “family” is the only word to describe the relationships he has built with the other students and staff.

“I really appreciate the sit-down moments where our instructors take the time to ask everyone how our week was or just discuss things going on in the world around us,” he said. “They notice that we all have emotions that we need to release.”

Performing arts have been proven to help people process emotions, relieve stress and overcome anxiety. TheGifted Arts often serves as a creative outlet for its students during times of crisis and high stress.

TheGifted Arts students (pre-COVID)

Developing life-long skills

Nicholé said it’s fascinating to see how students learn, grown and benefit from the program. Over time, peer mentor and paid junior level instructor roles become available to students.

“Our young leaders give the gift of teaching children how to tap into their own gifts and talents, all while continuing to watch themselves grow and connect the dots of their own journey in this process,” said Nicholé. “The children we serve also get to see peers that look like them living positive, productive and engaging lives. Our hope is that the ripple effect continues, so that we can continue to heal and increase the vibrancy and joy of each community.”

Michael compares his experience with TheGifted Arts to the common saying, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

“What does fishing have to do with anything?” he said. “Well, anyone can teach kids to dance. Not everyone can teach kids the importance of professionalism, confidence, leadership, empowering others, valuing mental health and physical health and creating a family. That is what TheGifted Arts is all about.”

Blue Cross NC recognizes the unique role the arts play in feeding the mind, heart and soul. That’s why we invest in arts programs like TheGifted Arts to improve the health and wellbeing of North Carolinians.