The Jesters performing arts program of the University of Saint Francis is still accepting registrations for the balance of the fall semester.

Sponsored by the University of Saint Francis since 1978, the Jesters is a performing group of people with developmental disabilities.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is being conducted virtually and includes a new program goal: Bridging the digital divide.

In an announcement, USF said digital media and electronic communication are domains in which people with intellectual/developmental disabilities are often left behind. "Offering a virtual Jesters program creates an opportunity to increase each participant’s proficiency and comfort using digital devices, social media and electronic communication regardless of their level of functioning," the university said. "If a participant does not have access to a digital device, Jesters will work together with them on an individual basis."

People with intellectual/developmental disabilities, ages 8 and older, are invited to register for the virtual fall 2020 semester, which continues Sept. 19 and 26, Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, Nov. 7, 14 and 21 and Dec. 5. No programing will be offered on Nov. 28 due to Thanksgiving.

New lessons are made available each Saturday. Except for the live Saturday morning Zoom special sessions, participants can view lessons anytime. The fee for the fall 2020 virtual program is $50 and includes:

• Weekly 15- to 20-minute videos providing lessons in storytelling, music, theatre and dance, customized for different functioning levels

• Weekly sign language videos, preparing for 2021 performance

• Weekly live Zoom social sessions (offered on Saturday mornings)

• Weekly instrument instructional videos (beginning in October)

• Weekly lessons teaching how to create/host podcasts and YouTube channels

• Weekly visual art lessons (kits with all needed supplies are provided to each Jester)

• A virtual buddy program, pairing Jester participants with University of Saint Francis students

•A new merit button program creating opportunities to earn 12 different buttons

• A monthly improvisational program mentored by Second City Theatre, Chicago (invitation only)

The program remains committed to working with participants to create an original interdisciplinary performance to be presented in March 2021, either live or virtually. Currently, USF is only accepting registrations for the fall 2020 Jesters program. Toward the end of 2020, registration will open for the winter/spring semester (January to March 2021). Whether Jesters continues to meet virtually or can meet face to face, participants will be welcome to register. Participants do not have to be part of the fall 2020 program to register for the winter/spring semester.

To request registration forms or scholarship forms, contact Molly McGowan of USF Creative Arts at mmcgowan@sf.edu or 260-399-8064. For more information about Jesters, contact Jesters Director Allison Ballard at allis2b@yahoo.com.

The Jesters program is made possible with funding from the AWS Foundation, the M.E. Raker Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, the James Foundation Inc. the Indiana Arts Commission and Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

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