HITT was created in 1984 to help teens explore their attitudes about critical issues that face them daily. Using improvisational techniques, HITT theatre specialists collaborate with instructors from each program site in an effort to guide teens in the creation of theatrical presentations. The flexibility of the improvisational format provides an environment that allows students to safely examine their past experiences and behaviors while exploring new possibilities for the future.

HITT has been providing licensed prevention services to at-risk youth since 1994. HITT is licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families as a Level 1 Selective Prevention program in District 3, and recognized as the first Florida Provider Replication Community Model Program in the state.  Furthermore, HITT was approved as a state-wide validation program in 2005.  HITT participated as part of the Department of Children and Families Florida Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Initiative (FYI), Substance Abuse Program.  Florida State University and Florida Center for Prevention Research has worked with the HITT program over the past 6 years to evaluate the program’s impact and to work toward scientific validation of the program. HITT has consistently performed well in outcome measurements, showing significant improvement in program participants’ awareness of the negative impact of substance abuse, violence, and other antisocial behaviors.  HITT also decreases the priority risk factors while strengthening existing protective factors demonstrated by data analysis by independent evaluators.


Successful collaborations have been created with several area facilities. The following are a list of program sites that have also benefited from HITT’s award-winning prevention and intervention programming:

  • Gainesville High School – An Alachua County public school that serves an economically and racially diverse student population.
  • Silver River Marine Institute – A non-residential program for juvenile offenders. 100% of student population is referred to Silver River by juvenile court judges as a requirement of probation.
  • Hawthorne High School – A rural public school serving an impoverished area of Alachua County. The majority of the student population is classified as at-risk based on economic information provided by the State’s Free Lunch Program
  • PACE Ocala – A non-residential program sponsored by the Department of Juvenile Justice. PACE serves as an alternative to incarceration or institutionalization for troubled adolescent girls. Students are eligible for enrollment due to problems of dependency, truancy, delinquency, or academic underachievement.
  • Howard Bishop Middle School – A public school located in a federally designated Weed and Seed area in a section of Gainesville encompassing several low-socio-economic neighborhoods with high incidence of drug use, drug trafficking, crime and increasing gang activity. HITT worked exclusively with Howard Bishop’s PRIDE program, a class consisting of a core group of special needs students that have experienced problems with pregnancy, motherhood, behavioral or criminal violations, academic difficulties or adjustment problems.
  • Horizon Center – An alternative middle school for children with disciplinary problems.
  • New Pathways – A mandatory admittance school for students with disciplinary problems.


Since 1995, the Hippodrome has worked with Sante Fe Community College to provide college scholarships to students who have completed the HITT program and graduated from high school. The Hippodrome continues to develop incentives for at-risk students to change their lives and those of their friends and families.


The Hippodrome State Theatre is North Central Florida’s premier performing arts producer and only professional theatre within a 120-mile radius.  Founded in 1973, the Hippodrome has grown to become the centerpiece of Alachua County’s historic downtown tourist district. The theatre is a performing arts theatre, independent cinema, visual arts gallery, children’s workshop, performance center as well as conference center for city, county, and state government, regional and statewide organizations. The Hippodrome is also renowned for providing year-round entertainment, festivals, workshops, and performances.

The goal “to enrich our community through artistic presentations and educational outreach” lies at the heart of the Hippodrome State Theatre’s mission.  Since its inception, the Hippodrome has been committed to the credo “Arts is Education.”  The theatre has maintained a strong commitment to developing innovative outreach and education programs with emphasis on reaching underserved audiences.  Current outreach programs include:

  • Theatre Arts Series – provides intensive theatre training for youth ages 7-17, allowing students to work in a hands-on environment to creatively explore the world of play development and production.
  • Family Performance Series – produces quality family programming at an affordable price, offering parents and children an opportunity to collectively explore the world of theatre arts.
  • Theatre for Deaf Audiences – includes sign-interpreted performances for each Mainstage production, as well as a hearing-enhancement system especially designed in aiding our hearing impaired patrons.
  • One Community, One Story – uses the performing arts as a vehicle for promoting reading and literacy, community interaction and arts education. Events associated with the project included lectures, mini-performances, and literature discussions, culminating in a professional performance on the Hippodrome’s Mainstage.
  • Senior Playwright Festival – seeks to inspire seniors to write plays and to actively participate in the play development during their artist residency and in audience talk backs during the festival.  The project is also an ongoing arts education program consisting of a series of intensive workshops and classes on playwriting, dramaturgy, and theatrical production.
  • Hippodrome Improvisational Teen Theatre (HITT) – works to help at-risk teens explore critical issues and counter high risk behaviors. The program has received significant recognition as one of the most effective arts based prevention programs in the nation. 
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