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  • Writer's pictureLori Oliver

Soaring Into Summer

Naples Performing Arts Center Builds Kids’ Confidence

Aniston Gerry and Celie Dockweiler

One of the biggest thrills of my job is developing confidence in children and watching as they progress through life. Sometimes it’s the little things, like a photo, that remind us how far we have come. This spring, 56 children, from various elementary and middle schools, capped off twelve weeks of musical theater training at Naples Performing Arts Center (NPAC) with four performances of Beauty and the Beast Jr. Photos from proud parents circulated on social media and one caught my eye. It showed three current sixth graders—Celie Dockweiler, Aniston Gerry, and Ruthie Grossman—on stage together from NPAC’s production of Beauty and the Beast Jr. in 2016. From Pre-K to pre-teens, I marvel at how they have grown!

When I asked each of the three families to explain what NPAC has meant to them, one common theme appeared: instilling confidence. “Each [musical] that Celie has performed in truly teaches a lesson, not only in the script but also from positive feedback, collaboration, and support from her teachers, directors, and peers,” explained Heather Dockweiler, who uses Instagram to archive her daughter’s experiences at NPAC.

Another of our longtime supporters added, “Over the years, Aniston has gone from a quiet, timid, and shy girl, to trying out for lead roles,” Ashley Gerry wrote to me. “You nurture their confidence to believe in themselves. You make it your mission to foster self-love and confidence as well as supporting and showing kindness to others. I am so grateful to have had NPAC as a part of her life while growing into a well-rounded, self-assured child.”

“If you love what you are doing, don’t stop,” said sixth grader Ruthie Grossman. “It doesn’t matter what role you have, it’s so fun to be a part of. Never give up on your dreams!”    

Our education spaces for private and group instruction take place at the YMCA of Collier County. One mile away at the Community School of Naples is where our large musical theater performances take place. We welcome anyone in the community to volunteer, purchase tickets to see these amazingly talented students shine on stage, and donate to NPAC so more students may participate in the arts and develop life skills.

Since I founded NPAC in 2012, we have grown to become the place parents turn to for performing arts education. Musical theater education, from elementary through high school age, is our forte with cast lists routinely topping fifty students; however, it’s not about the numbers, and it’s certainly not just about shows. NPAC’s core mission fosters creativity, builds self-esteem, and develops a love for the arts. We are here to be an extended ‘family’ as evidenced by the three girls who have come full circle with me in Beauty and the Beast Jr. Be our guest and see the impact yourself.


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