District hosts open houses for Regional Talent Centers

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

By Kofi Biney

When you first walk into Universal Audenried Charter High School, you are greeted by banners displaying various positive messages, such as “My future begins here,” “I help others succeed,” and “I will overcome.”

Audenried isn’t just promoting this can-do attitude through its banners, but as the location of the South Philadelphia Regional Talent Center.

It is one of two centers that the District opened in September 2010 to provide afterschool activities. The other is the Northwest Regional Talent Center, located at the Promise Academy at Martin Luther King High School.

Both centers are free and open to all Philadelphia youth in grades 6-12 who attend public, parochial, and private schools.

This week, the District held open houses at both centers to introduce parents and students to the program, provide an overview of the activities offered, and make applications for enrollment available.

The Regional Talent Centers provide arts-integrated instruction, with classes in art, theater, music, dance, and health and fitness. Students also engage in various reading, math, and science activities. Funding for the programs is provided through the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant and with the support of community partner Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership.

Rahim Islam, president and CEO of Universal Companies, which manages Audenried, said it’s important to give schools resources for the performing arts.

“We have a very basic, fundamental belief that we have to restore a couple things back into education. Performing arts is one of them,” Islam said.

Virginia T. Lam, project manager for the Regional Talent Centers and a music education content specialist for the District, agreed.

“I firmly believe that arts education is a must-have. It’s a core academic subject [and] it enriches the tested academic areas of math, reading and science.”

During the open house at Audenried, parents and students learned about the subjects that will be taught at the center this year. They were treated to a theater monologue and dance number performed by two students from Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), and a performance from Philadelphia native and former American Idol contestant Dominic Patrick.

Class tours were also held, where instructors conducted short sessions with students.

“I love getting kids creative [and] watching them grow artistically,” said Peter Metcalfe, one of the visual arts instructors.

Morgan Stewart, an instrumental music teacher with the District and a music instructor at the center, said it “is a privilege” to be able to teach and work with students who don’t normally have music in their schools.

“All of these students are extremely creative, but I found that they didn’t have an outlet. This Regional Talent Center gives them not only the resources, but the teachers and mentors to fully engage them in that music experience.”

Trevor Rounsville, a sophomore at Audenried, said he is taking advantage of all that the center has to offer.

“There are good music programs here and a bunch of other classes for health and culinary arts,” he said.

“I just like learning about everything.”

For more information about the Regional Talent Centers and to obtain an application for the 2012-13 school year, call 215-400-5902 or email talentcenters@philasd.org.