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Booker Middle VPA Finds a Highflying Bright Spot in Difficult Times

by Christine Hopkins, VPA Coordinator at Booker Middle School

SARASOTA COUNTY, September 10, 2020 – Through a combined interest in promoting comprehensive arts programs that provide access and opportunity, three community organizations have come together to exhibit what the Sarasota arts community is all about — collaboration, inclusion, and accessibility. Booker Middle School’s Visual & Performing Arts program is partnering with the USF Center for PAInT, and Circus Arts Conservatory to bring a new Circus Arts program to Booker Middle School.

Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton, Director of for Florida Center for PAInT, states, “The USF Center for PAInT is an active partner with Booker Middle School and Circus Arts Conservatory. After several discussions among the three organizations, this collaboration just made sense. We each have the same mission to increase awareness and engagement of racially-inclusive arts programs in Sarasota.”

Booker Middle School proud Principal, Dr. LaShawn Frost, states, “This collaboration is a call to action: One that makes us proud to be the forerunner in bringing a successful, diverse, and inclusive middle school Circus Arts Program to Sarasota. This program is sure to inspire innovative, creative talent that comes from a diverse group of students. We believe in the Power of the Arts and our goal is to ensure that we are providing growing opportunities for all students. Through safe implementation and guided practice, Booker Middle School’s students will explore an artform that is pivotal in social, mental, and physical growth, as well as meaningful and influential in our community’s history.”

Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator and BMS Facilitating Teacher Christine Hopkins states, “It is no secret that Booker Middle School maintains its programs at very high standards and the new Circus Arts program will be no exception. This program will be led by top professionals in the field – many of whom have been part of circus families for generations – and offered in a safe and controlled environment. During these times, it’s important that we show our students we can still move forward, we can find new interests, and we can simultaneously be safe and have fun.”

Outreach and Education Manager for Circus Arts Conservatory, Karen Bell, adds “Circus Arts give students much more than the benefits of strength and flexibility—students also learn leadership, cooperation, and self-confidence. And all of that can still be accomplished, even in challenging times.”

Booker Middle School’s new Circus Arts program is being offered to all 6th, 7th, and 8th grade enrolled students. In its inaugural year, the program will provide an opportunity to promote meaningful, authentic, and culturally sustaining learning opportunities that build self-efficacy and resiliency in students. For more information on this exciting new program, please contact Booker Middle School’s Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, Christine Hopkins, at