“I have a passion for acting. Anything you get involved in, you have to have passion or else you won’t give it your all.
I think that if you want to get everything out of life, you’ll also have to give. This has to come naturally and can’t be forced.”
– Mike Branch
Streetwise Actors is looking for volunteers in and around the Halton region, for help with programming and acting workshops. In addition, potential board members especially those with community connections, grant writing or fundraising experience or financial background are needed.
Youth can register at www.streetwiseactors.com. Pamphlets are distributed at schools and the program partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.
For anyone who has been on stage, it is a good place to practice life. It can help you build confidence and self-esteem by building your voice. This is especially important for youth transitioning into adulthood.
Streetwise Actors has been around for 2 years in Oakville and the Halton region, and reaches out to at-risk youth aged 10-17 that may be involved with drugs, dealing with family issues or bullying. The program teaches basic acting skills to youth who, along with the volunteers, produce skits, songs and music, which they perform in long-term care facilities and retirement homes. Self-esteem and self-respect are developed through creative hard work, and respect for others is learned through teamwork.
“Volunteers who have been behind the scenes doing the technical work take that leap on stage. You hear a lot of them say ‘Oh wow, it’s amazing and I didn’t think I could do it…’,” says Mike.
Volunteers are necessary to this grassroots organization. They help host workshops, drive participants to rehearsals and performances, and form the board of directors. The Town of Oakville provides rehearsal space; donations, grants and events provide the funding. The program is gaining recognition but fundraising is a challenge for new organizations. David Nash, the organization’s Executive Director, was just nominated for a YMCA award for his contribution to the community and he would like to expand the program.
Mike Branch (BASc 2003 Computer Engineering) is an expert on enterprise web and mobile applications, with a focus on business intelligence. He is the founder and CEO of Inovex Inc. a consulting and software development company specializing in software development for the healthcare and energy sectors.
Mike has always been a volunteer. At UofT, he was VP External for Engineering’s Student Council and VP Communications for the provincial Student’s Society Council. Through these roles he enjoyed networking with various communities. He was part of EngineeringHelps where a group of students built a giant Hot Wheels race track to fundraise for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The track was on display at the Molson Indy where they charged a toonie to race a car on the track. Following his passion for acting, Mike joined Engineering’s SkuleNite at Hart House and productions at University College.
This passion continues today through acting in plays put on by his high school alumni association, as VP Production for his local community theatre group The Oakville Players, and with his involvement in Streetwise Actors. “I was in a play and the director was starting something new and innovative. He approached me to be on the board. That was the beginning of my involvement with Streetwise Actors and my focus is on strategies for growth and sustainability.”
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