Up With People has ‘impact’ in host communities | PostIndependent.com

Up With People has ‘impact’ in host communities

John Stroud Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Like a lot of the younger Up With People cast members, 17-year-old Raven Smith of Bermuda admits she didn’t fully understand what all she was getting into when she signed up to be part of the traveling student performance group.

“We really learn a lot about ourselves when we’re out here serving the communities we visit,” Smith said Friday as she joined seven of her fellow cast members for some landscaping and gardening work outside the YouthZone office in Glenwood Springs.

There are three primary aspects to the Up With People international and intercultural exchange program, explains cast member Shelsea Ochoa, 22, of San Diego – “travel, performance and impact.”

The focus of the day Friday was to make an “impact” in their host communities. Groups of cast members participated in community service projects throughout the area from Aspen to Rifle as a prelude to their performance tonight on the Fanny Hill Stage in Snowmass Village.

In addition to the Glenwood YouthZone office beautification, 10 young volunteers helped with the latest Habitat for Humanity project to build three houses in Rifle, while other groups were helping with trail maintenance projects in the Aspen area.

Most of the group of eight young women working at the YouthZone office are staying with host families in Glenwood Springs this weekend.

Undeterred by the intermittent rain, they happily pulled weeds and rehearsed some lines in preparation for tonight’s performance.

“It feels so good to be able to be of service,” Ochoa said. “That goodwill spreads like a ripple effect, and also sets an example for the kids in our host families.”

Adds Stephanie Wagle, 20, of Nebraska, “Our host families give so much to us, and this is a way to give back.”

Jimena Orea, 20, of Mexico, said the service projects are a part of the Up With People experience that they can take back to their home countries.

“We want to inspire people in every community to take action,” she said.

The nature of the community service projects students work on throughout their tour varies from one community to the next, said Sisa Cernanska, promotion representative for Up with People.

“Within each area, Up with People attempts to address the diverse needs of that particular region,” she said. “Within the Roaring Fork Valley, our volunteers are engaging in numerous projects that will aid in the beautification of the area.

“It is our hope, that both our commitment to community service and our positive attitudes will spark others into action,” Cernanska said. “In each city for just a short amount of time, we try to make an impact that extends beyond the duration of our stay.”

Cast members range in age from 17 to 29. Up with People’s new production of “A Song for the World” features a cast of 85 representing 20 different countries. The live, two-hour performance includes both original and popular music, with solo performances, full cast production numbers, choreography and colorful costumes.

“Throughout the show, international cast members will provide the audience with a glimpse of their own national traditions and cultures through music and dance with musical stops in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa,” according to an Up With People press release on tonight’s event.

Tickets can be purchased tonight at the gate – $18 for adults, and $10 for children and students with a student ID. The show starts at 8 p.m. on the Fanny Hill Stage in Snowmass Village.

Sunday is Host Family Day for the cast members, in which they spend a whole day with their host families throughout the valley.

“They experience their culture and what the host families like to do,” Cernanska said.

jstroud@postindependent.com