Charterhouse Student Performs at LIVE ART

June 12, 2017

Sophia put her head down, not wanting to talk about being “famous.” She grabbed her child-sized scissors, and began cutting the Target ad into small pieces. Her teacher, Jessica Nelson, tried to engage Sophia, hoping she would warm up enough to answer questions. “Why do you like your drama class?” I asked. “Do you have friends there?”

Sophia said, “No.” Ms. Nelson asked her again and she named Liv, Nora and Claudia as her friends from School of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community. Sophia beamed as her teacher told the story about the welcome Sophia received after missing some of her SPARC classes because she’d had surgery. “They love me,” Sophia said proudly.

Sophia is a student in Charterhouse School’s applied curriculum classroom. Her Therapeutic Coach, Alex Ginsberg, is a drama therapist and teacher for SPARC. UMFS is a SPARC community partner, and students from Child & Family Healing Center participate in SPARC’s summer camps, thanks to the generosity of UMFS donors Joe and Sarah Hoyle.

Ms. Ginsberg, Sophia’s teachers and Sophia’s parents thought Sophia would benefit from SPARC’s performing arts classes. She eventually agreed to try the classes, and now not only is Sophia the only Charterhouse student participating in SPARC’s LIVE ART program, she’s thriving in it!

LIVE ART is a Broadway-style performance where students of all abilities come together with national recording artists for an inclusive, life-changing performance at the Altria Theatre in Richmond each June. Some of the stars performing this year at Live Art: DREAM are Rob Thomas, Colbie Callait, Desiree Roots and Richmond-native and Grammy award winner Jason Mraz.

Students take classes for a year, learning SPARC’s unique ACE curriculum. Sophia tells me ACE stands for, “Acceptance, Compassion and Empathy.” Sophia’s eyes light up when she talks about listening to YouTube singers Mario & Martinez. She says she loves to shop at Target and the dollar store, and she loves Disney Princesses. She is a Charterhouse School cheerleader who cheers at pep rallies, and she’s very excited to be turning 13 in May.

Sophia brings what she’s learned at SPARC back to the classroom. She says her dream is, “To be nice to the world, kind and loving.” It’s then that she looks up and gives a big smile.

Programs like SPARC would not be possible for some of our students without our generous donors. To make a gift, please visit