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2015 Top-Rated Nonprofit

CircEsteem Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Cultural & Ethnic Awareness, Theater

Mission: CircEsteem unites youth from diverse racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds and builds self-esteem through the practice and performance of circus arts.

Results: With a 100% graduation rate from high school CircEsteem participants have received over $500,000 in college scholarships. CircEsteem provides dollar for dollar matching funds for participants saving money for college. To date CircEsteem youth have saved over $15,000 for their educational futures. CircEsteem has doubled their savings in addition to providing college scholarships.

Target demographics: youth gain self-esteem through the practice of circus arts

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1000

Geographic areas served: Chicago

Programs: 1. HomeWork & Circus Work is our after school tutoring program that works with youth 3 days a week combining homework help with circus activities. 2. Saturday circus classes happen for youth Saturday mornings from 8 AM to 1 PM throughout the school year. Come take Silks, Trapeze, Lyra, Tight-rope Walking, Trampoline, Tumbling, Chinese Pole and much more! 3. CircEsteem Summer Camp is a safe, fun, and supportive environment where campers can come and learn all the circus skills 7 weeks out of the summer. 4. We love to do outreach in schools. Invite us to your school where we can teach an after school program every week or a gym class workshop. OR you can bring your school to our location for a field trip! 5. Birthday Parties! Celebrate your birthday at CircEsteem! 6. Invite us to your event where we can host workshops for your guests.

Community Stories

28 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CircEsteem has been an incredibly positive influence for all three of my children. My oldest daughters have been involved for over 5 years. My youngest son only recently had his first experience. It is, without question, their favorite place to be. They are welcomed, they are challenged, and they learn amazingly impressive skills! Their experiences there have taught them to support, respect and encourage one another.

1

Former staff

Rating: 5

This organization is perfect for students of all ages, abilities, sizes, and backgrounds. I've watched kids grow up with this organization finding a place to flourish outside of school in an environment that's welcoming and familial to all students. I've seen so many students graduate from CircEsteem's program and return to teach. This in and of itself speaks volumes of the organization as it works hard to prepare its students for success and is always ready to welcome its youth back with open arms.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been to many CircEsteem events and performances over the years. The pride and joy of the performers is so apparent it often gets me choked up. These are youth who have been through some difficult circumstances who are proving you can accomplish anything through hard work. I wish CircEsteem had been around when I was a kid! Luckily I have been to several adult birthday parties hosted at CircEsteem (Yes! Adults can enjoy CircEsteem programming too) and got to experience the self-esteem boost for myself!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has been with CircEsteem for ten years, since he was seven. He was welcomed into the fold from the very beginning and began to form friendships with other circus kids, many of whom he would not likely have crossed paths with otherwise. They have become another family – a very diverse family of varied races, cultures, economic backgrounds, personalities – and they work and play together, teach each other, and look out for one another. Over the years, I have seen his previous mentors go off to college and watched my son and his peers grow into mentors for new younger students. I have felt proud of all of them. They are committed, hard-working, skillful, and joyful in their practice and performances. I do believe CircEsteem fulfills its mission of building self-esteem and breaking down barriers. It has been a wonderful experience for our family.

1

Former staff

Rating: 5

CircEsteem is an incredible organization, a culmination of all of my values manifested in one place. The sliding scale model enables a diverse group of kids to access the organization's resources, fostering community among a wide variety of socionomic and cultural backgrounds. The kids on team particularly inspire me with their commitment to this work. They work tirelessly, but never fail to have fun and keep perspective. They are incredible teachers to the kids who take classes and they are also incredible students with each other. The eagerness for learning in this space is contagious and the collaboration and skill sharing among these kids is a beautiful site to witness. CircEsteem is undoubtedly cultivating a special group of leaders among Chicago's youth.

2 meredith-george

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CircEsteem is one of the few truly diverse organizations for children in that it embraces economic diversity as well as racial, national, and cultural diversity. I get to help the youth with homework in CircEsteem's Homework Circuswork program. I have watched kids who have nobody at home who can help with their homework gain expertise, confidence, and the tenacity to try their best at both academics and circus arts. They don't iust learn circus tricks, they also learn how to be part of a team. Fun to watch the youth blossom into their best selves.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When my son was an active, 7-year-old, he took a circus/clowning class after school. He was encouraged to attend the Saturday morning class at an inner-city youth center. Now at 17, he's comfortable on stage, can do circus arts, has a personality for his clown self, but most of all is very close with the circus team: teaches the newer kids, performs with the experienced kids. He is on a gig this morning and doing a different show tomorrow. His circus team has kids from different continents, different economic classes, different races, and different first-languages, yet none of this diversity is remarkable to him; instead they must focus on their next performance. I am an attorney turned tutor. I get to help circus kids with homework after school to balance their after school circus work. The determination and energy of these kids is a joy. Even the young ones can progress and master skills and it shows in their stage presence. And I am working on juggling rings.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My children have discovered diverse community in which to discover share and develop circus skills. CircEsteem truly serves its community. I am thrilled we found a home here!

Client Served

Rating: 5

I can't say enough about circesteem! We already know and appreciate the great effect CircEsteem has on our daughter from Saturday circus, but we noticed a shift in summer camp, even in that one week. There was something about the intense amount of hours of camp that really galvanized her sense of belonging to that group.

The changes were small, but unmistakable. Socially, our daughter was one of the gang, both cheered and cheering; she had a place there with all the kids across all ages. Her confidence was clearly improved and her physical presence transformed from uncertain and a little awkward to strong and purposeful. She did her trick and she styled, owning it! It was a site to see, such a change in a short time. Then there's the fact that she suddenly mastered crossing the whole playground monkey bars the very same week of camp--she's translating the confidence and strength that she gained with you all to other spaces and challenges.

Kathryn39

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My children went to summer camp at Circ and it was awesome! The groups were small, the kids got to learn new things, and environment was peaceful. Lovely!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

My boys weren't sure if they would like circus camp, but at the end of the week they were asking for more. It is also a very active camp--it tired my kids out, which is hard to do!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My 6yo daughter attended a week long summer camp in 2015. The camp was run smoothly, it had entry of staff with a good combination of adult experts and a stellar crop of young professionals and blossoming camp assistants. The kids had a great time being exposed to new skills and learned to appreciate persistence, tenacity, and a show person's attitude.

At the end of camp, the kids performed in a wonderful showcase where they showcased their new skills where applause came no matter what the level of skill or success of the "act."

My daughter met new friends, a wonderful group of caring adults, and discovered something new in herself.

Highly recommended for all genders and ages.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

As the CPS school year was quickly coming to an end, I realized I had no care coverage for my 2 daughters (10 and 8). I looked to friends for baby sitter referrals. One friend, an instructor at the camp suggested I look into CircEsteem. Even with my potential financial challenges, I called and spoke to a staff member who was MORE than willing to talk to me about my options. When I told the girls I was looking into Circus Camp, they both kinda of poopoo'd the idea. They had no choice, I put my foot down, they were going. I was able to work everything out and set up to get girls to camp for their first day. When I arrived at 3 for pick up they both complained (yes, complained) that I was there to pick them up, they didn't want to leave. I couldn't be happier with our experience at CircEsteem and HIGHLY recommend this camp for any kids. My girls love all of the staff and instructors and are having a fantastic experience. The staff is wonderful and more than willing to work with me and my situation. J.C.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am blessed to be able to enhance the kids experience in performing by creating costumes for them. I don't know where I would find a more diverse, loving, talented, respectful, group of children anywhere. Working with them one on one I am able to see what shining lights they are, how committed to developing their skills and how committed they are to one another and the success of the program.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

CircEsteem has offered ongoing programs as a part of an afterschool program I work with. Their staff has been terrifically skilled and kind with the young people they work with. Moreover I have hired the group to do 1-day workshops for our students and I have supported their circus programs as a volunteer and now board member. They transform the lives of young people through the work that they do. The young people they work with have matured into skilled and caring staff members who are terrific role models for younger children following in their foot steps and learning from them in their classes.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first heard about CircEsteem from an actress working in San Francisco. She had helped found the organization when she was living in Chicago. When she learned that I was moving with my mid-elementary and middle school children to Chicago, she told me to look them up. I did and enrolled my two children -- aged 9 and 11 in introductory circus arts classes. Once a week, we traveled from Evanston to Chicago to participate in classes with city kids and kids from Lake Forest, another northern suburb. It gave my kids a great opportunity to work with kids of other socioeconomic backgrounds and to learn circus arts at the same time. The director, Paul Miller, always made my children and all the children welcome and encouraged them in all their endeavors. He brought great energy, enthusiasm and interest to each and everyone in his presence -- adults and children alike. My daughter and I also participated in the after school tutoring program -- she as part of a community service project and I because I am a learning specialist. While my daughter and I were tutoring, vollunteers from the Lycee School, a french elementary and high school, in Chicago also were tutoring kids. I thought what an amazing way to gather people together for mutual benefit and learning.My husband has taken photographs for Circusteem on numerous occasions. When I go into a city school where I work, I see posters with his photographs, advertising upcoming performances. Since my kids have been involved with Circusteem, we have attended fundraisers and performances. I am always amazed at the incredible skills that the performers bring to their programs. Circusteeem is indeed a great asset to the greater Chicago community.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

circesteem/chicago youth circus was the perfect place for our son to bring his quirky skills and quiet personality. it is a place where encouragement, responsibility and team spirit are consistently applied. where city, suburban and refugees kids come together and build trust, cooperation and lead to lasting friendships. their performances consistently impress.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CircEsteem helps kids build skills and confidence through the Circus Arts. I have met and worked the kids involved in CircEsteem and have seen the results of their dedication in their fantastic shows. Some of the kids have gone on to professional careers in the Circus Arts. My kids enjoyed themselves, learned some tricks and helped others through their on site tutoring program. On several occasions I have photographed the performers for their promotional posters and during their wonderful shows. This is a vital and important non-profit organization.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a transformative program for city youth, bringing together a remarkable assortment of kids at all levels from the newbies to the vets. It has a strong educational/homework base with proven results (scholarships, academic achievements) and a physical fun and skills component that is linked to other youth circus groups around the US and Europe. Kids stay with this for years as they learn and grow, and who can blame them despite the demanding effort it takes! Great staff, great kids, great program!

10

Former staff

Rating: 5

As a teacher, I was able to experience first hand how circus positively changes the lives of children. The circus work provides a seemingly impossible task that with some hard work and training, the children are able to achieve. This then translates into other areas of their lives. Suddenly math and english don't seem so impossible. The confidence this program builds as well as discipline, dedication, and team building is priceless.

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has been a student, performer, and camp counselor as part of the CircEsteem organization for 8 years, since he was 10 years old. I watched from the sidelines (and assisted as a volunteer) as he matured and gained so much from the opportunity to work with such a culturally diverse group of kids and adults. He traveled with the troupe to San Francisco and Germany, and performed all over the Chicago area. He learned to collaborate very comfortably and naturally with kids from a wide range of socioeconomic and immigrant backgrounds. He also learned to think on his feet, be organized, and be a leader in a group that was much less structured than the typical school and extracurricular experiences that kids have.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

We always attend the shows and they are fantastic. Our six year old son has participated in the summer program and enjoyed it immensely. This organization has done great work with the local kids and is a great reflection of what can be accomplished when people of diverse backgrounds collaborate for the greater good.

6

Former staff

Rating: 5

CircEsteem gave me the unique chance to practice the Gym Wheel with the 8-time Gym Wheel World Champion Wolfgang Bientzle, the chance to perform around Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and more, and I also met other circuses and went to cirque du soleil shows for free thanks to CircEsteem. They also have coached me to be able to teach circus skills to kids. Maybe the most important thing is that they showed me how social circus can really help kids from so different backgrounds to respect each other and themselves, get more confidence and enjoy the team work.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This past summer CircEsteem and the Chicago Youth Circus came to Zelienople, PA and I had the plesase to see them perform. It was absolutely amazing to see these kids of all ages, diverse backgrounds performing. This organization is focused on tutoring these kids after school, teaching them the art of circus, and helping to guide these kids (some of which have little or no parental parental guidance) and watching them grow into the wonderful young people they are with a very high percentage of them going on to college. I can't say enough about this non profit organization. Without this organization, many of these kids would be out on the street.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

An excellent program all around! Teaching a diverse group of kids and adults in a beautiful inspiring environment! I was amazed at the level of commitment exhibited by teens. Their pride and ownership was fully evident.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been a close friend of the executive director and a community supporter of CircEsteem for over 5 years. I have witness the inextricable evolution and development of the kids and the organization. The kids' energy, dedication and creativity feed the development of the organization as well as their own. Talented, determined kids, often with few resources, do great work here because they are supported by adults who respect and nurture them. I consistently recommend this organization to friends with children who are looking for an experience that will challenge them in every way.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a supporter of CircEsteem, I have watched the organization transform young people's lives, taking them from refugees to future doctors in training. I have never worked with an organization that commits so much time and energy into developing amazing young leaders and mentors.

9

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CircEsteem has had a significant impact on my son who has been a participant in the program for more than six years. He has learned how to work cooperatively with others, gained confidence as a performer and developed close relationships with youth from all over the city. His life and our family has been enriched through his particpation in this amazing program. I recommend CircEsteem to children of all ages to both learn valuable skills and to have fun in a multicultural environment. Rick George, MSW