LEAF Schools & Streets Resident Teaching Artists help connect youth to the arts on a deeper level, exemplifying positive, responsible behavior that enhances leadership skills. 80% of parents reported seeing positive changes in their child’s behavior as a result of LEAF Schools & Streets programming.

When LEAF Schools & Streets youth learn to lead by example, they shine a light on others that has been shone on them first. Erinn Hartley’s IRL theatre class provides the ideal container for modeling behavior, both in scene and behind the scenes. Over the course of a semester, and often times longer as many students come back to the program time and time again, Erinn helps the group develop a true ensemble culture, supporting and uplifting one another while striving to improve their collective theatre skills. “I can see what I need to work on now by watching him. You’re right, we need to slow down and look up more,” reflects Natalie, one of the young performers in Erinn’s class.

“I really like everything about acting and just want to learn as much as I can about it.” Natalie, Asheville Middle Schooler in Erinn Hartley’s IRL (In Real Life) theatre class.

By the end of the school year, “the peer feedback they were able to give one another was really strong, positive and effective, even when constructively critical. They seemed to really care about each other and about helping each other improve their performance work,” remarks Erinn. During monologue rehearsals, Kaleb, one of the Asheville Middle School students in the group reacts to his fellow troupe-member, “she’s doing really great. You can tell when someone has been working hard.”


While their stage presence, public speaking and improvisation skills have surely developed over the course of the year, perhaps the more long-lasting impact is in normalizing positive, thoughtful and kind communication among peers and with adults that will guide these young artists in their future relationships.