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After School Arts Program a healthy choice for area teens

Arms and legs were moving to the rhythm as teenagers danced Zumba-style across the expansive cafeteria at Culpeper Middle School.

Smiles cloaked a few nervous thoughts about dancing in front of an audience, but instructor Jamie Clancey kept the teens focused on the fun and the Latin-style beats.

There were also guitars strumming in unison, along with a cover of a Neil Young song prior to the dance aerobics.

Appetizers were arranged and various art projects from a wide selection of mediums covered at least three tables.

This was the festive scene for the After School Arts Program’s semester-ending art show, sponsored by Healthy Culpeper Nov. 14.

In the program, middle school and high school aged students chose between classes in collage, mixed media, guitar, Zumba, healthy cooking and crocheting for the semester-long session.

Nearly 100 parents, teachers, families and fans gathered to enjoy the fruits of six classes and 35 middle school and high school students.

Surprisingly, the ASAP program is six years old and it has managed to endure the ebb and flow of budgets ― all while providing a necessary resource for Culpeper Countyfs often finicky teen population.

“This year we had four teachers from the school system in the ranks of our six instructors,” said Healthy Culpeper Director Denise Walker. “We have continually provided a quality arts program. The toughest part is still telling the public that we are here. So many people are surprised that this program is out here.”

“I was an assistant guitar instructor and I really enjoyed learning and helping Alan Rasmussen. He’s been a great teacher,” said Chase Miller, 12, a student and assistant in the guitar class. “I played a Neil Young song that Alan chose, it’s 'Tell Me Why?'”

“I’ve really enjoyed the class and I’ll be back next semester,” he added.

“The funding for this program almost evaporated at one point and groups like the Scott Fisher Foundation, Northern Piedmont Community Foundation and East Street Project helped rescue this program.,” said Alan Rasmussen, an instructor, advocate for ASAP and a Prevention Specialist. “For six years ASAP has been an effective way for young people to explore the arts. The big picture is Healthy Culpeper is bringing partners together in our community to benefit the young people of this county. This program is doing that and has done that.”
Matthew LaRosa, 12, is one of those young people.

“I enjoyed the cooking class,” he said. “I learned how to prepare food that my family would eat.”

“I’d eat his food,” agreed his little sister.

A brief description of all the classes offered in the ASAP program is provided on the Healthy Culpeper website: www.healthyculpeper.org

“Our instructors Kim Jebson, Hillary Frerotte, Alan Rasmussen, Bob Jordan, Jamie Clancey and Rebecca Yeager really did great job this semester and the kids really enjoyed all their expertise,” said Walker.

The After School Arts program is open to all middle school and high school students residing in Culpeper. Classes were held at Culpeper Middle School every Wednesday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. from Sept. 26 through Nov.14.
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