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United Methodist church helps youth handle life with humor

 


United Methodist church helps youth handle life with humor

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The 8- to 12-year-olds attending the Kid Komedy camp are gaining confidence through laughter.

July 29, 2004       

ATLANTA (UMNS) — Summer camp is a joke for some young people at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church.

The 12 to 16-year-olds attending the Teen Komedy camp there are learning the fine art of improvisation. 8 to 12-year-olds learn to do stand-up and skits at Kid Komedy camp.

Kid Komedy teaches the fundamentals of humor and how to have the last laugh, even when things get tough. That’s an important tool, according to Teresa Angle-Young, the church’s youth director. “The world is a difficult place,” she said. “Anytime you can integrate humor in your life … it’s a positive thing.”

The church hosts some of the weeklong camps, as do other churches and synagogues in the Atlanta area. Kid Komedy is the brainchild of Janet Schultz, a former psychiatric social worker who left the field for a short stint as a stand-up comedian.

In 1998, she traveled to New York to perform at a comedy club and visit family. Her young niece was so interested in her routine that Schultz decided to offer comedy classes for children. The Kid Komedy Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, sponsors summer camps, after-school programs and six-week classes.

Her main purpose was to help kids build confidence, gain experience in public speaking, and learn to cope with stress. Elementary schools rarely train students in public speaking, yet they are expected to deliver oral book reports and make other appearances in front of crowds, she pointed out.

A shy child herself, Schultz remembered trembling and crying when asked to do oral reports. “Kids need coaching. They need to be encouraged,” she explained. “They need to be told how to get up and speak in front of people. It’s not intuitive at all.”

The program seems to be effective. One mother wrote Schultz and said that for years her son had struggled with declining grades, bullying and a learning disability, yet “through sheer determination and hard work he has turned this all around. Your class was the proof he needed that he could succeed.”

The young comedians have praise for the program, too. “You learn how to respond to situations and totally reverse the situation on someone else,” said 14-year-old Geoffrey Stucki.

Marissa Fine, 12, added, “These comedy camps actually helps kids break out of their shell of being shy.”

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Kids learn to write their own comedy routines at Kid Komedy camp.

Schultz believes that low self-esteem is the root of every issue adults face, from depression to addictions. “We have a chronic low self-esteem problem in our world,” she said. “If you can address self-esteem in an effective way in kids and make a difference in their lives between say, 8 and 16, the course of their life is going to be better. It’s going to be different.”

She hopes they will start to ease tension with humor. “Kids are learning to laugh at themselves, to laugh at situations that don’t go their way. Instead of getting humiliated, to see humor in any situation that might happen.”

Schultz helps young people write routines about issues close to their hearts. She has strict rules about no racial or ethnic jokes, and no slapstick. She also frowns on “potty humor” and “the trend that dirtier is funny.”

She considers laughter to be a gift every soul can use. “We live in a scary world now,” she pointed out. “Horrible things are happening every day. We all need to be able to keep that light, keep that humor, realize that there’s always something to be hopeful about and to laugh at in any situation you’re in … that’s the wonderful gift to give these kids.”

At Sandy Springs United Methodist Church, Angle-Young thinks it can’t hurt to develop a new crop of polished speakers. “Maybe there’s a budding minister in that bunch,” she said.

More information on the Kid Komedy Foundation is available at the organization’s Web site, www.kidkomedy.org.

News media contact Fran Coode Walsh at (615) 742-5470, or newsdesk@umcom.org.

 

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