By Kathy L. Collins

Last month, students from area schools gathered at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City for the Annual Celebration Showcase sponsored by VSA Florida, Hillsborough County Public Schools and Hillsborough Community College. This performance showcases students with disabilities.

The mission of VSA Florida is to provide, support and champion arts education and cultural experiences for and by people with disabilities. VSA Florida provide Artist in Residence programs in visual arts, music, drama and movements for students with disabilities served in resource and inclusive settings.

At the Celebration Showcase, performances were given by students from seven schools including Randall Middle School, Seffner Elementary School and Shields Middle School.

The Teaching Artist for Randall Middle School is Freddy Montes, an accomplished guitarist, percussionist, composer and music instructor. The students worked with drums and learned rhythm and following instructions. They performed a total of four pieces. The rhythm reinforced counting skills, focus/concentration and memory.

The Teaching Artist for Seffner Elementary and Shields Middle Schools is Nanci Dorau, a movement, theatre and dance teacher. Students from Seffner Elementary performed two numbers from the musical, Annie. The students from Shields Middle School, who only had a short time to get ready, performed a dance number.

Sharon Terrell is an Exceptional Student Education Specialist at Randall Middle School. Terrell said, “Art is a natural way for people to connect with the world around them. For students with special needs, it is a way for them to explore the world through their senses. They access various sights, smells, textures, sounds and increase interactions with others. It is important for them to perform what they have learned in order to promote social skills and to increase their communication sills.”

The students at Randall Middle School are incorporated into the school culture and environment according to their abilities.

For over 30 years, VSA Florida has provided visual and performing art programs that make it possible for people with disabilities to contribute to the social, cultural and economic life of Florida.

For more information, visit www.vsafl.org.