About 50 kids participated in the finale of the Young Americans “Rise UP!” performance, which was the culmination of a three-day workshop, showcasing youth talents in the performance arts. The show, performed March 20 at Wallace Theater, started with high-energy medleys including classical opera stanzas, 50s rock and spirituals led by The Young Americans cast members. The final number was sung by the entire group of cast members and kids performing Lion King’s “Circle of Life.”

The Young Americans was hosted by Child and Youth Services, The Young American Workshop is courtesy of the USO, in partnership with Fort Belvoir Elementary School.

Fort Belvoir has an incredible community, said Steven Haines, CEO of Young Americans, who thanked Fort Belvoir garrison, CYS, and the USO for the partnership.


“It really takes an incredible team,” he said, adding that having such diversity within Young Americans is what the country represents.

Grace Kramer, Young Americans guest director, said the cast members represent more than 40 states and 12 countries. Different casts travel around the world with some currently in California and Japan.

Three members within the Young American cast visiting Fort Belvoir are from Germany, Scotland and Canada, she said.

“It really is about the shared experiences and cultural interaction that makes Young Americans what it is,” Haines said. “So, moms, dads, and family members, I’m so proud of your kids.”

Express yourself

CYS wanted to bring in an organization that focused on movement, confidence, respect and teamwork to work with Fort Belvoir Elementary School students, said Anna Muniz, CYS.

“It instills in the children to express themselves as individuals, but work together as a team, where there’s an all-inclusive family feeling,” she said.

“Everyone has a special move and a talent. So even if a kid doesn’t have a perfected skill, we’ll take what skill they have and enhance it. It’s a good ‘get your feet wet’ kind of feeling,” Muniz said.

The Young Americans cast study education and performance arts with a global perspective, she said during the performance, and are trained to work with kids.

Experienced dancers trained the kids and during the workshop, the children worked on coordination and had one-on-one help to get them prepared to perform within a three-day window, Muniz said.

“There’s no better way to feel accomplished than to have recognition, and this brings the whole Fort Belvoir Army family together and showing what the morale is — which is about family, teamwork, uniqueness. There’s no better way to celebrate that unless you have dance, movement and music.”