Amber Academy Youth Fine Arts Society is an emerging non-profit organization in Sooke, BC with a focus to create healthier and higher qualities of life for youth by empowering them through the fine arts.
Keli Dunn created Amber Academy in memory of her younger sister who died in October 2016.
Amber was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, although that diagnosis wasn’t made until well into her adult years. What was known early on was that Amber had dyslexia and other learning disabilities that made school very challenging for her starting back in the first grade. She failed the second grade and had to repeat it, yet it wasn’t until her third grade that her family learned of her disabilities.
By that time, Amber had spent two years being teased by kids at school for being “the dumb kid.” She was often bullied, left out of games in the school yard and singled out as the only child not invited to a birthday party.
The impact of the constant rejection contributed to Amber’s already low self-esteem and added to her feelings of anger, anxiety and sadness. She grew to perceive herself as not worthy of love or kindness, but also became very bitter from the stigma that too often follows kids with learning disabilities.
Amber left home when she was 13 years old. She dropped out of school before completing eighth grade. By then she had already been using drugs for quite some time. She was only 10 years old when she began abusing alcohol, raiding the liquor cabinet when nobody was home.
Desperate to feel accepted by anyone, Amber found herself feeling most comfortable in the company of other drug addicts who might give her any amount of attention. It didn’t matter to her that they abused her, because she felt that was all she was worthy of. She became accustomed to a life of being used and mistreated by those who would “accept” her.
Amber died tragically at the age of 39.
Amber’s story is not unique. Many kids today continue to experience similar struggles as Amber did in school and among her peers, with or without the same challenges that she faced. Amber Academy is dedicated to engaging youth in pro-social activities to encourage positive youth development in all of its students. Their goal is to help young people become confident, healthy adults.
Amber Academy’s mission is to empower youth from kindergarten through high school to become creative, productive and confident members of the community through artistic education, collaboration and expression, and to find their own voice and their own talent without creative boundaries or inhibitions.
Amber’s Academy believes that by supporting a culture of positive self-esteem and collaboration, young people can enhance and shape their own community.
Amber Academy offers a variety of after-school classes in visuals arts as well as stage arts and more. Each of these elements is equally vital to the world of theatre, as well as to the world of fine arts itself.
Throughout the year, students from each of the classes will collaborate together with the goal of creating multiple performances—including a musical theatre production almost entirely driven by the students themselves. The performance, set design, costumes, sound, lighting and props will be the end result of months of teamwork and individual creativity.
In addition to working on their own productions, students will have opportunities to collaborate with other local arts groups on their projects where volunteers are needed. By showing students how to link their individual growth to wider social responsibilities, they learn to be productive and confident members of the community.
The goal of the Academy is to empower youth not only in the arts but in life skills, volunteerism, and community service.
A core belief at the Academy is that a family’s available financial resources should not determine their child’s ability to participate in their program. There are no monthly fees to attend classes at Amber Academy, however families must be registered members of the society in order for their child/children to participate.
In an effort to ensure that the program is accessible to all families, the annual membership fees are only $50/year for single-child families and $75/year for multi-child families. All other funding for the program comes from grants, sponsors, corporate and individual donations, and fundraising events.
In addition to participating in classes twice a week from 3:30 – 5:00, students will also be provided with after school snacks and most of the supplies that will be needed for their projects.
For more information
To learn more about Amber Academy Youth Fine Arts Society, register for classes, or make a donation to support the program please visit the at website, contact them by at email, or reach them by phone at (250) 888-1921.