In five years, Jason Ellis wants Momentum Collective, Inc. to be a charter school teaching kids the arts in Northern Virginia.
The nonprofit resumed programming in October, after a two-year Covid hiatus, and are one again teaching low and moderate income children how to sing, dance and act in summer camps and after school at the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Ruby Tucker Center. About 90 elementary school-aged kids have participated since programming resumed, and the plan is to eventually bring back middle and high school kids.
Ellis, who founded the nonprofit six years ago, is a former program and resident and community services director with ARHA. He’s a director, actor, singer, dancer and writer.
“I’m about empowerment,” Ellis told ALXnow. “We have empowered our kids with a sense of urgency so that they can be in control of their own lives and destiny and make good choices.”
Momentum Collective, Inc. partners with Alexandria City Public Schools’ Link Club program, the city and ARHA to work with kids after school and in the summer.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for kids, particularly Black and brown kids in under-resourced families, who don’t have the financial resources to participate in meaningful arts enrichment programming within the city,” Ellis said. “We created the organization specifically to target kids within the city of Alexandria to have access to arts enrichment programs for free.”
Ellis was also the head of school for the YouthBuild Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. from 2018 to 2019. It’s an experience that has shifted the focus of the organization.
“We have a five year plan to start a charter school for middle school youth,” Ellis said. “For now, though, our short-term plan is to expand our programming into other recreation centers, particularly like on the West End, because that’s always a underserved area of the city.”
Momentum Collective is conducting a creative writing workshop in September at Jefferson Houston Recreation Center. The workshop is open to Alexandria children, and cash awards will be presented to the winners.
“Then we’re actually going to stage their writing productions from our winners,” Ellis said.
Ellis and his team use technology to motivate their students.
“Kids are very interested in performing,” he said. “By nature they reach they want to showcase something, which is why they’re constantly on TikTok and Instagram. So, if I say I’m going to be working on something that you can put on TikTok, they get it — that’s the end result for them and that’s what they want to work toward. If I give them a script and tell them we’re going to put a web series on YouTube, they get excited about that, because that’s what they’re familiar with.”
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