School is not the only place children can learn -- they can also learn at the circus.
The Trenton Circus Squad in the U.S. state of New Jersey teaches children between 12 and 17 years old new tricks and skills. The students learn to perform acrobatics, how to keep plates spinning in the air and how to ride a unicycle.
At the same time, the students learn about children who are different from them.
The circus program brings together children from low-income city neighborhoods and higher-income places. Performing together helps children develop friendships and connections.
Zoe Brookes is the co-founder and executive director of the program. She says it helps change the negative image of teenagers in inner cities.
“Performance is an essential part of what our teenagers experience. When they join after the first couple of weeks we expect them to get comfortable performing. And that may be doing something very simple like spinning a plate or doing a forward roll. But they learn that performing is a way of giving back to other people. You make somebody smile. And the whole community can feel joyful.”
The children love the program. They say it is a second home for them and a place where they feel safe.
Bilal Halley is a member of the Trenton Circus.
“This is a really safe environment for me. Rather than going out on the streets, and just being exposed to many different things which are, like, either bad or good, but here it’s not no bad things -- just all good.”
Brandon Coleman is also a member of the Trenton Circus. He says the program has helped him learn about new people. And, he says, it is teaching him to expect the best in everyone.
I’m Marsha James.
VOA Correspondent Faiza Elmasry reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
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Words in This Story
circus - n. a traveling show, often performed in a tent with animals, clowns, ...
acrobat - n. someone who performs difficult and dangerous acts (usually at a circus)
spin - v. to turn or cause someone or something to turn around repeatedly
unicycle - n. similar to a bicycle but has only one wheel
negative - adj. thinking about the bad qualities of someone or something
essential - adj. extremely important and necessary
roll - n. an act of turning over and over
expose - v. to experience or to be influenced by something