I have always been a supporter of theater training in public schools, and (from personal experience) can attest to its lifelong impact.

At 15, when New York playwright, Steven Joseph-a visiting artist at my New Jersey high school-collaborated on a local production of his award-winning musical, “The Me Nobody Knows”, I was cast in the show, belting out the opening song to a standing ovation! With the encouragement and support of my teachers and the local community, I began college at 16 in Boston, continuing on to New York City and beyond, and a fulfilling career in the theater and broadcast production.

Trenton public schools also have a wealth of artistic talent, many from Trenton High School, like Dallina Garro-Montanez, who became its first theater student to win the New Jersey Governor’s Award for Arts in Education in 2021. Go to YouTube to watch other talented student performers from the James R. Halsey Foundation of the Arts (founded by native Trentonian, Joseph Halsey) in the 2020 film, “Finding Ourselves”.

Mark your calendar for Trenton Arts at Princeton’s 5th Anniversary Showcase, on Saturday, April 6, 2024, 4:00-5:30 pm. Trenton Arts at Princeton’s Youth Theatre is a co-curricular theater program for students from Trenton Central High School, and Trenton Ninth Grade Academy who work with Princeton University student coaches.

In an age of school budget cuts (especially since the 2020 pandemic), when the annual student musical, positions for theater instructors, and even entire arts departments have been eliminated, young artists need our support more than ever. Beginning with your own child’s school or a neighbor’s, contact the drama department or a community youth theater program to volunteer your time and expertise, and, when you can, make a donation.

Supporting young artists and honoring the mentors in my own life are two ways that my own career has come full circle.

At this time of year, I honor the late character actor and teacher who was my mentor in New York City, by watching his performance in one of his classic movies, shown on television over and over throughout the holiday season. His gift of teaching, support and guidance will, in turn, continue to inspire future young artists indefinitely. Thank you for everything, Bill Hickey. Rest in peace.

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