Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
With the help of Circus of the Kids instructors and fellow students, Evan Hoekstra, top, a sixth-grader at St. Jude the Apostle School, Atlanta, reaches his full height while practicing the human balancing act on the first day of practice for the school’s upcoming circus.

Sandy Springs

The greatest show of mirth on Catholic middle school turf

By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published October 15, 2015
St. Jude the Apostle School seventh-grader Mary Beth Fason practices the trapeze with instructors James Finch, standing right, and Joe Gallogly, background, hanging from trapeze. Photo By Michael Alexander

St. Jude the Apostle School seventh-grader Mary Beth Fason practices the trapeze with instructors James Finch, standing right, and Joe Gallogly, background, hanging from trapeze. Photo By Michael Alexander

SANDY SPRINGS—The 2015 edition of St. Jude the Apostle School’s biennial circus took place Sept. 23-27 with performances scheduled in the school gymnasium. Under the guidance of Circus of the Kids, the Tallahassee, Florida–based circus arts instructional program, this is the school’s fifth circus since 2007. Circus of the Kids, which was founded in 1982, is the brainchild of Bruce Pheffer. The Florida State University graduate said he fell in love with the circus around age 11 when he saw one at Callaway Gardens. Since its inception Circus of the Kids has presided over circus performances at over 150 venues throughout the United States and Canada.

Pheffer said St. Jude the Apostle School is the largest school where they hold a circus, and it usually has the most number of kids in a cast. This year 142 middle school students participated in various facets of the circus. That’s 82 percent of the school’s middle school population.

Seventh–grader Evan Sitzmann hangs upside down from the swinging trapeze during a Sept. 16 rehearsal. Photo By Michael Alexander

Seventh–grader Evan Sitzmann hangs upside down from the swinging trapeze during a Sept. 16 rehearsal. Photo By Michael Alexander

The students and school administrators make a great commitment to the success of the circus. Broken down into one-hour sessions, the students and their various acts have practice each evening, beginning at 3 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m., except Sundays. It comes out to five or six hours of practice a week for each performer. It’s quite amazing to watch the maturation process as they learn to master the acts from one day to the next. One minute they appear clumsy and unsure of themselves, and before you know it, they’re taking on the double trapeze, hand balancing or juggling.

“The circus is used as the medium, but it’s really about teaching success and boosting self-esteem,” said Pheffer. St. Jude principal Patty Childs says the circus inspires teamwork among students and encourages a better sense of trust. “With students of different grades working on acts together, it allows students to broaden their social circle to include additional people they normally might not hang out with, and ultimately coming to rely on and extending themselves to others,” said Childs.


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