January 22, 2014 - By Ana Cordera
Review Special Writer
The Young Americans workshop is coming back to Lake Orion next month.
The Young Americans is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing music education and performance opportunities for young people around the world. The group has visited Lake Orion for about ten years now, dropping by every three years.
Every visit consists of a three-day workshop that includes after-school classes and workshops, a grand finale by the participants, and more.
This year, the Community Education Resource Center (CERC) building will host the conference from Thursday Feb. 27 to Saturday March 1. The cost is $80 for three days of practice, classes and then a final show that takes place that Saturday at 5 p.m.
Parent and facilitator, Karen Appledorn, who has helped bring the Young Americans to Lake Orion since 2004 said the conference has a positive effect on everyone.
"New people are blown away by what our kids learn during those three days, how incredibly talented our community is and what these Young Americans are able to accomplish," she said.
Appledorn, whose daughter has participated in the workshops, said she noticed an enormous change in her after attending the first workshop.
"She was more confident, more empowered, [with] a whole different attitude," Appledorn said. "She was so much more positive about herself."
Katie Olds, a parent who has sent her daughter Sara, 16 and son Trenton, 18 to the Young Americans workshop multiple times, said she noticed a huge boost of confidence in both of her children after the workshops.
"(Sara) came back almost a totally different person," Olds said.
As for Trenton, she said the workshop convinced him to go to Blue Lakes Fine Arts camp—a decision he did not have prior to the experience with the Young Americans.
"I was a very reclusive child who didn't really talk to anyone nor do anything outgoing, so that was the first time I had done anything that forced me to put myself out there," Trenton Olds said. "After my first experience with them, I became more outgoing."
Perhaps it's the bonds participants form with the Young Americans or the overall experience from singing and dancing to playing an instrument or reading a poem that creates the unforgettable experience.
Whatever it is, both parents and children can attest to the unique experience the Young Americans can be.
For Lori McGraw, the program assistant for community enrichment, who in part has been helping bring the Young Americans to Lake Orion, the relationship the Young Americans formed with her children was astounding.
"When (the Young Americans) pulled out last time in their bus, at the end of the workshop, my kids all started crying," McGraw said. "It's just amazing they way they believe in the kids and teach them to believe in themselves."
"Over the three days, they just made me feel really important and special," Sara Olds said.
Adding to the effect, the Young Americans cast members typically stay with families during the workshop. Families that stay with Young Americans are called homestays. Families can request to host as many Young Americans as they would like.
The Olds family has hosted three times and plans to do so again next month.
"(Hosting a Young American) was probably one of the best things we have ever done because the energy they bring into a household is just ecstatic and it just permeates everywhere, always making you smile," Trenton Olds said.
Appledorn, who is in charge of organizing home stays, said if a family is interested in hosting, they should call her at 248-814-8872 or e-mail her at email@example.com. So far, she said she has nine families signed up and needs around nine or ten more.
To sign-up for the workshop, people can register anytime up to the event by calling 248-693-5436, ext. 1 or visiting the Lake Orion Community Education website.
As for kids or teens still unsure whether to participate, Sara Olds said taking part in the Young Americans workshop is probably one of the best experiences a person can get.
"It made me who I am today," she added.
If you would like to learn more about the Young Americans, you can visit www.youngamericans.org.