More than 200,000 NYC public school students – roughly 1 out of 5 – were chronically absent (missing 38 days or more of school) last year, according to the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement.
Research shows that the consequences of chronic absenteeism are severe: three out of four students who are chronically absent in the sixth grade never graduate from high school. In addition, it was discovered that nearly 80 percent of children in New York City’s juvenile justice system were chronically absent in the period preceding their arrest.
ENACT, a drama therapy company for NYC teens, addresses the issue of truancy and absenteeism head-on through creative theater techniques delivered by professional actors and counselors. Founded in 1987, the theater company has pioneered three decades of trauma-informed practices and social, emotional learning that has impacted more than 150,000 youth across New York City’s five boroughs.
On Wednesday, ENACT held its annual performance of Show UP! with its latest work entitled, Stand Up for Truth. Sixty students from four schools took part in this year’s performance, which was held at the Kumble Theatre at LIU Brooklyn.
ENACT CEO and Director Diana Feldman said working with students this year exposed a clear emphasis on immigration, police brutality and learning to discern the truth, although the biggest issue was always bullying.
One scene in this year’s show depicts the true story of a middle school girl whose friends are peer pressuring her to remove her hijab. Feldman said working with enACT, students learned their personal strength and inner-resilience.
“They begin to see themselves as heroes, as strength-based people who have overcome really difficult obstacles,” said Feldman. “This is very important to them, and it’s exactly what we want the audience to see.”
The performance aims to break stigma around students who might be struggling to show up for school, and let the audience see how many students have overcome more obstacles than they could imagine, she added. “It’s very moving.”
For more information or to get involved in ENACT, go here.