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Kelly Zitka Starts a Movement

Student Kelly Zitka brought national All Stars Project talent show to Dallas to help empower kids in South Dallas, Oak Cliff and West Dallas

By Ally Van Deuren (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Journalism, ’15)

A year ago, Kelly Zitka (B.F.A. Dance, B.B.A. Business, ’15), was searching for an internship in New York City when she came across the All Stars Project. While the nonprofit organization did not have an internship, Zitka knew that she wanted to learn more about what the program had to offer.

The All Stars Project, which has been running for about 30 years in various cities throughout the United States, provides free, after-school programs for inner-city youth to help them conquer the restraints of poverty and use the power of performance in their daily lives as a personal development opportunity.

“I fell in love with the mission because it was all about using performance to empower individuals to go beyond the labels society might place on them,” Zitka says. “I thought that was so unique and really resonated with me.”

A year later, Zitka is directing the first talent show for the All Stars Project of Dallas, which was held Nov. 8, 2014 at the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. Zitka, along with several other Meadows students and First Presbyterian Church members, has gotten together with the All Stars kids in the Dallas area a few times to get to know one another and communicate through means of movement, art, music, spoken word and dance.

“This is an outlet of performance that has no boundaries,” Zitka says. “They are taught how to perform not only on the stage through talent shows but also in a business setting. All Stars helps them set up internships and perform as leaders.”

Or: At a recent workshop, students from SMU Meadows, Highland Park High School and Dallas All Stars filled out a survey about what they wanted to see changed in Dallas and where they thought the city is divided.

“One kid in particular rapped something that he wrote himself, and I think that was his first time ever performing it,” Zitka says. “It was a really special and incredibly powerful experience and it made me realize that I take for granted the ability to perform every day.”

Zitka knew that she could use the resources that she had on SMU’s campus through her dual degree to help her use art to bridge the gap between communities. Her project has been made possible by SMU’s Caswell Leadership Fellowship, and Zitka’s idea has been incorporated into Clyde Valentin’s new arts and urbanism initiative at SMU.

“I wanted SMU students to go outside the Highland Park area and work with kids and share the gift of their SMU education,” Zitka says.

SMU students have the opportunity to earn their community engagement experience pillar on the new curriculum in the form of service hours through participation in the All Stars Project.

While Zitka will graduate this spring, it is very important to her that this collaborative initiative continues past her graduation.

“Dallas is in total need of an organization like this,” Zitka says. “Due to the fact that the city is so economically and racially divided and the way that our arts district is totally booming, people are seeing the ways that art can bring people together.”

Don’t miss the All Stars Project of Dallas’ first performance on Nov. 8, 2014!

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