Initiated in 1984, the Hippodrome Improvisational Teen Theatre (HITT) program is an award-winning Community Model Program that has helped over 60,000 young people build the skills they need to protect them from addiction, violence and mental health issues. HITT is a prevention and intervention program targeting 100% at-risk youth from diverse backgrounds and ethnic populations, primarily economically disadvantaged, underserved and minority youth. This unique arts-based, best-practice program combines theatre techniques, improvisational scene work, role playing, large and small group interactions, educational games, and communication exercises to examine issues critical to young people, such as alcohol and substance use, bullying, delinquency, teen pregnancy, self-esteem, and HIV/AIDS.
HITT is also a service learning program. Participants design peer education performances/workshops and take them “on tour” to schools and neighboring communities after completing seven weeks of theatre and prevention training. During each tour, participants assume the role of actor, playwright, director, tour manager, and most importantly, “teacher” as they share their knowledge to their peers and other members of their community. Exceptional participants are asked to present their performances and workshops at conferences regionally, statewide, and nationally. By assuming leadership roles, students build self-esteem, team building skills and strengthen their ability to make positive life choices. The program’s overall goal is to provide participants with a sense that they can succeed and to furnish them with the skills and knowledge necessary to resist high-risk behaviors.
Preparation – In the classroom, students will partner with Prevention Specialists to discuss the effects of substance abuse on their peers and their community. Students will also participate in structured research on drug and alcohol awareness. They will explore the skills needed for self-awareness, self-acceptance, communication, resisting negative peer pressure, decision-making, and setting goals. Students will partner with Theatre Specialists to learn improvisational games and techniques. They will use the techniques, as well as role playing, group interactions, and scene work, to examine problems with alcohol and drug use. Open discussions offer students the opportunity to exchange their ideas in a trusting environment.
Community Outreach – The HITT program culminates in peer education performances/workshops. These performance/workshops are based on the critical issues discussed in the classroom. Students design, script and rehearse performances with positive and relevant messages. The resulting performances are then taken “on tour” to schools, churches, community centers, conferences and special events where the participants new knowledge, experiences and increased sense of success can be shared with their peers, parents and community members. Following each performance, youth participants lead discussions with audience members on the issues explored.
The HITT Team also works with participating students to develop material for HITT’s prevention website. The students are both contributors and editors to this invaluable service learning piece. Exceptional students are invited to participate in creating, rehearsing and filming a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that is distributed statewide and is also available on the website. In this way, HITT integrates the media of video, television and computer technology to inspire young people to become peer educators, as well as extend HITT’s powerful prevention message throughout Florida and beyond.
Recognition– HITT places a high priority on both self-recognition and public recognition for each participant’s contribution to the program. Producing a piece of theatre is an investment in openness and creativity. The positive response of performing for your community and leading workshops instills a strong sense of success, which affects all aspects of youths’ lives, including academic achievement.
For more information about HITT programs, including bringing a peer education tour to your school, contact Marcia Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org