DAREarts Vancouver: Youth Creating “Hope Beyond Adversity”

For the last 6 years, DAREarts workshops have been a fixture at Britannia Elementary School in Vancouver.  Grade 7 teacher, Justin Borsato, is a firm believer in the leadership skills and values that DAREarts instills in his students. He acknowledges that the arts are not his forte (hockey is!) and that DAREarts fills that gap. Each year, all the young teens write, act, sing, make movies (see their ‘Hope Beyond Adversity’ on DAREarts YouTube) and dance for their public showcase.  Below is from Mr. Borsato and one student. – ROY MULDER, DAREarts Vancouver Coordinator

“I just wanted to express my gratitude for making sure that the DAREarts program was able to touch the lives of my students in Vancouver this year.

DAREarts is far more than an arts program.  It is a program which dares students to find their voices and express their ideas through a multitude of avenues.  The DAREarts staff has the unique ability to push children out of their comfort zones and into the realm of emotional growth.  Throughout the week, my students were exposed to a wide variety of art forms where they flourished, working both individually and within teams. In the beginning, many found it difficult to express their feelings and work with students who were not close friends.  But, with the help of DAREarts’ amazing staff, the students found their confidence and developed bonds with new peers.

Shelley, Roy, Lori and Tracie are the consummate professionals.  Their diverse skill sets promote a wide variety of learning potential.  They work together as a single unit and build upon each other’s ideas.  They have an uncanny ability to elicit excellence from their subjects, while maintaining a positive learning environment.  I have worked with many artists and arts programs in my 18 years as a classroom teacher, and none of them hold a candle to the professionalism and talent of the DAREarts artists and program.

An example … is reflected in the story of one of my students.  A 12 year old girl with acute anxiety, was “dared” by Lori and Shelley to create a poem expressing the anxiety and fears she battles on a daily basis.  The student went home that night and created a poem (below) outlining the intensity of her disorder.  She was asked if she’d be willing to read her poem on stage.  She quickly said no, that she didn’t have the nerve to be alone on stage, but that she’d be okay if someone else from the class read it.  However, over some time and gentle encouragement, the staff was able to build the young girl’s confidence, and by the end of the week, she felt nervous but was prepared to read her own poem – alone on stage and in front of an auditorium full of guests.  Her performance was the highlight of the night.  She was bold and expressed her feelings clearly and with tremendous expression.  Her anxiety took a back seat that night, and I attribute her conquest to the skills offered by the staff and programming of DAREarts.”  Justin Borsato, Britannia Elementary School Teacher


It reminds you of all the things you fear.
Giving you reasons to run.
Wishing you could disappear.
Words cutting deeply in your skin releasing forbidden tears.
Knowing there dripping down your cheeks scare you.
It’s one of your fears.
For you remember learning as a child that crying represents weakness.
So you grew up as a ship in a hurricane above a pitch black sea of irrational fears and thoughts.
This ship being thrown each direction until your vision is accompanied by black dots.
For some reason no matter what you do it won’t stop and it wont stop and you don’t know what to do.
Weeks to months you feel as if you’re in a void.
Then you realize your alone and there’s no friend for you.
And you just need a moment to breathe.
There are always an unexpected day.
Where you feel no harm can come.
It feels like it all just went away.
You found your place.
You found your friends.
You found your space.
So in the inside you need to think, just for a moment you’re thinking…
This is not the end.
You can just feel yourself sinking…
We just have to keep believing there’s more good to come.
You see, we all just have to learn to cope.
It’s difficult, trust me I know.
Yet someday I know you’ll once again learn how to have hope.

DAREarts is a children’s charity that empowers at-risk young people to be leaders. DAREarts is grateful to all its supporters including National Supporter: Northbridge Insurance; Lead Supporters: Anne LivingstonBank of America Merrill Lynch, Scotiabank and TD Bank Group; and Vancouver Education Partners Britannia Elementary School, Britannia Secondary School, and Presentation House.