Signal Mountain's Brett Cooper, 10, may be young, but she has a long list of accomplished credits already through her years in acting.
Her most recent credit comes from acting as a motivational teacher for some of her peers. The accomplished youth actor started the Follow UR Star program recently to help students of St. Andrews Center Arts Academy, located downtown, improve their self-esteem through exploring the world of drama.
"We are very fortunate that Brett has chosen to share her talents with us," St. Andrews Center's Arts Academy Director Cynthia Pennington said. "She has volunteered with the kids who attend the Arts Academy here and was deeply moved to help our kids more by developing Follow UR Star. It is very remarkable to see a 10-year-old with such a loving and giving heart and the ability to put together a program that could improve the lives of our kids for years to come."
Through her work with teaching youth acting skills at St. Andrews, Brett won a Disney Friends for Change Grant for her Follow UR Star program.
"The Disney Friends for Change Grant encourages young people to make a difference," said Brett. "It's my inspiration for the Follow UR Star program that teaches kids to follow their dreams. I taught the kids at St. Andrews improv games and other assertive games to build up their self-esteem. It builds up articulation, presentation and confidence."
She said the St. Andrews students, who come from inner-city homes experiencing economic hardships, were shy, but after six days of Follow UR Star sessions, they were ready for an audience. On Global Youth Services Day Brett and St. Andrews students showcased the program at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.
"They really followed directions and stepped up," said Brett. "It [Global Youth Services Day] was a really big success."
St. Andrews Center Executive Director Kate Warren said she has been blown away by the Follow UR Star program and how it has transformed the lives of students in the Arts Academy. Most are of Guatemalan or Mexican descent and come to the academy in the afternoons to learn about the arts.
Brett plans to teach the Follow UR Star acting program at St. Andrews Center Arts Academy again this fall. She will lead the activities in a peer-to-peer format. Brett has training in acting, singing and dancing and has appeared in several theatrical productions and films.
She said she would like to help youth produce a play at St. Andrews Center in late winter of 2012.
"We want to always improve and have a program of excellence," said Pennington. "We want more opportunities to excel. This gave us the opportunity to expand into acting. Follow UR Star teaches youth to realize everything they need is inside of them. They are the same worth and quality as stars."