This summer marks the 10th consecutive Summer Spotlight series at Troy University.
For a decade, the Department of Theatre and Dance has hosted this series of camps and intensives aimed at developing participants’ interests and talents in the arts.
It began with a group of about 40 preteen children taking part in a Creative Drama Camp and has blossomed since to include dance and musical theatre.
“We started it as a program to give young people the opportunity to have high-quality instruction and experience in the arts during the summer,” said Tori Lee Averett, Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance.
Bryce Tatum, a 17-year-old Goshen High School student, was among the earliest enrollees in Summer Spotlight, attending his first as an 8-year-old.
He credits his yearly work with the Creative Drama Camp for fostering his love of theatre.
“I started to grow interest in theatre in early elementary school, and I heard about this camp and decided to try it,” Tatum said. “From then on, I’ve just loved the entire experience. It’s just the amount of creativity that’s here — every year is a brand new experience, and I always look forward to it.”
The program’s growth came when organizers recognized other arts-related needs among both TROY students and those in the Pike County area.
“There are not a lot of opportunities during the summer for kids to participate in theatre and dance,” Averett said. “With the inception of theatre education degree program, we also saw a need for those students to work with children in a classroom setting. We are meeting those needs beautifully.”
For the kids who participate in the camp every year, Summer Spotlight’s growth has crafted friendships and a sense of belonging.
“I would say summer spotlight is definitely a magical experience,” Tatum said. “It’s amazing. I’ve seen it definitely become much more of a community over the years. Now even past Spotlighters are telling their families that this is an amazing camp and they should try it.”
Today, Summer Spotlight includes the Spotlight on Dance, the Performance and Tech and Management Intensives for high school and college students, and the Creative Drama Camp.
What started with that first group of children has grown to include about 275 participants working in eight different buildings across the camps and intensives.
Many of those children grow up to become TROY students, teachers, and theatre and dance professionals.
Some even return to pass on their knowledge to Spotlighters.
“Another exciting way we’ve seen evidence of growth is we now have students who were children who came to Summer Spotlight as participants who are teaching at the camps,” Averett said. “Many of our guest artists were TROY graduates who have come back after working in the industry to share what they’ve learned.
Tatum’s experience with the program has been so transformative that he plans on joining TROY’s theatre department once he graduates.
“Over 10 years, it’s been inspiring and exciting to see the children, their parents and the Troy Campus family really embrace the culture of what we do at Summer Spotlight, which is all about inclusion, taking risks and being creative,” Averett said. “It’s exciting to see young people feel Troy University is a place where they can belong and fit in. These young people feel at home here on a college campus, and that is maybe the most affirming thing for me.”