The ovations and cheers seemed endless.
The smiles, too.
Special needs students from four Pasco County schools shared their unique skills on Oct. 20 before more than 100 parents, peers, school faculty and community members.
The ninth annual Showcase for Exceptional Talent was in the auditorium at the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel.
The event allows all of the special needs students to come together as a community to show off their talents. It encompasses students with developmental and intellectual disabilities, including autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Down syndrome and so on.
From dancing and singing/duets, to lip-syncing and comedy skits, there wasn’t a dull moment.
This year’s hour-and-a-half show featured 25 routines from dozens of exceptional student education (ESE) students.
And, each exhibited skills with aplomb, unafraid of the main stage, bright lights or the large audience, that watched intently.
Clearly it was the students’ day to shine.
Performers hailed from Wesley Chapel, Ridgewood and Zephyrhills high schools, as well as Weightman Middle School. A large-scale digital backdrop recognized each act and the performers involved.
Wesley Chapel’s David Dixon started the show on a patriotic note, with his rendition of the National Anthem.
Ridgewood High’s Becky Bordeaux worked the crowd with her comedy, drawing hearty rounds of guffaws with every joke.
Weightman’s Mauricio Diaz and Noah Brooks kept younger members of the audience engaged, hip-hop dancing to “Bank Account” by rapper 21 Savage.
Zephyrhills High’s Ryan Womack, meanwhile, had older show-goers singing in unison with a stirring cover of “It’s Not Unusual” by legendary Welsh singer Tom Jones.
During brief breaks in action, Wesley Chapel High’s Anthony Minnick and Ashley Mendez served as masters of ceremony. They kept the show moving along with dialogue and introductions.
A grand finale was newly introduced this year. All ESE students were invited on stage to celebrate with a reprise song of Michael Jackson’s “Bad.”
The event ended about as well as it started.
It even elicited “tears of joy” from parent Dale Kimball, who also attended last year’s show.
Kimball’s 15-year son, Paul, has autism.
Paul was part of a Wesley Chapel High group ensemble that performed “Heigh Ho” from Snow White. He played the part of “Prince Charming,” while his teacher, Penny Ward, played the Evil Queen.
It created quite the paradox, Kimball said, as Ward “is so kind and wonderful.”
The Wesley Chapel parent pointed out the annual showcase is the closest to a stage most ESE students will ever get.
He also mentioned the staff at the schools are very encouraging to get even reluctant students to participate in the annual showcase.
“These kids never will be on a field, ever. These kids will never be on a stage, ever, except for something like this. You see the joy (of the kids),” Kimball said.
“We’re so blessed to have this program,” he added.
Bridget White, an ESE teacher at Wesley Chapel High, coordinated this year’s showcase.
She concurred with Kimball’s assessment the event provides an important and worthwhile experience for special needs students countywide.
“They don’t always have the same opportunities to shine, and this is geared to them. They often are going to their siblings’ events, so this gets to be just for them,” White said.
In preparation for the showcase, participating students were offered two days of on-stage rehearsals, along with a few classroom rehearsals.
Beforehand, ESE teachers disitrictwide spread the word about the upcoming show with students and their families.
“Oftentimes, they have talents that we may not know about, that are (seen) at home,” White said.
Published October 25, 2017