Biola Youth Theatre awarded $10,000 for second time

Wells Fargo awards Biola Youth Theatre a $10,000 for a second year.


Tyler Otte

Wels Fargo awarded Biola Youth Theater a $10k grant for the second year in a row. | Tyler Otte/THE CHIMES

Wels Fargo awarded Biola Youth Theater a $10k grant for the second year in a row. | Tyler Otte/THE CHIMES

Last month, Wells Fargo awarded $10,000 to Biola Youth Theatre for the second consecutive year, the first award was given in June 2010 for the same amount. Biola Youth Theatre, currently in their 15th season, has grown significantly with approximately 200 kids participating, Lori Shanebeck, executive producer of Biola Youth Theatre said. Ideally, Shanebeck aims for an annual goal of $55,000-70,000 a year. She constantly has to write grants in order to keep up with the goal that she sets for the year.

Grant for expansion

The expansion of the program led Shanebeck to submit a grant proposal to Wells Fargo. A student in Biola Youth Theatre had some connections at Wells Fargo and her father worked at the company.

Wells Fargo was impressed with Biola Youth Theatre and said they do not just give the money to anybody, Shanebeck said.

“They were intrigued by the fact that there’s nobody like us in the country. We are the only youth theatre company that is partially underwritten by a university, and that is allowed to use the university’s name as a part of our name” Shanebeck said.

She clarified that by underwritten she meant that the university funds a portion of their funding.

Wells Fargo stated that it was evident that Biola Youth Theatre teaches life skills and reaches out to the community, Shanebeck said. This was an additional deciding factor for awarding the grant to Biola Youth Theatre. Wells Fargo had specific instruction for Biola Youth Theatre to use the grant for operating costs. The company wanted to see the budget listing all the costs of putting the production together such as lighting, costumes, publicity, etc.

Writing a grant proposal

Kris Wagner, currently Director of Foundation Relations at Biola, found Biola Youth Theatre online and contacted Shanebeck while living in Chicago in Oct. 2009. Wagner, having experience in writing grants, helped Shanebeck write a grant proposal for Wells Fargo.

The university contributes their facilities and Biola’s name which she expressed to be a huge contribution in itself. Biola contributes towards the Biola Youth Theatre budget and remaining contributions involve ticket sales, fundraising, and Biola Youth Theatre participants tuition.

Biola changed some of the funding structure last year while still providing a lot of funding they changed what areas of the program it would be provided to. Biola Youth Theatre had to rethink how the resources were allocated, Shanebeck stated.

Shanebeck, who has a master’s in organizational leadership from Biola, decided that she would refer back to material she learned from in the courses. She decided to double her numbers by bringing back some of the age groups they previously cut back. Shanebeck said the goal is to expand while offering the best possible arts experience for the kids.

Theatre Values the Kids and Community

Shanebeck says about 10,000 people come to their shows a year and with the fundraiser shows, it’s over this amount. For this reason Shanebeck says it important to produce an excellent product to the audience. People may not always understand why the university would have a program like this, that is not specific to university students said Shanebeck. She says that the fact that they care about students before they come to Biola and make the opportunity available makes her proud as an alumni.

The program has a team of faculty and parents helping to make the show successful. Michele Stevens, assistant creative director and full-time choreographer expressed how she loves the involvement she has with the children and is able to make this a great show for the audience.

“For me it’s great as a believer to have a place where I can glorify God through the arts and to do it with a university as great as Biola,” said Stevens.

Jennifer Ko is the mom of Ellie, a sixth grader from Los Coyotes Middle School who is involved in the program.

“She keeps on saying the teachers are so nice, everyone’s just so nice. She just enjoys it and she feels very confident.” Ko said.

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