Jade Cook is a firm believer that the performing arts are an excellent tool for building self-esteem and self-expression in disabled youngsters.
She’s always been passionate about helping others and now that she’s graduated with a first class degree in drama and English language, she’s putting her skills to good use and has opened Spectrum Community Arts, a weekly dance club aimed specifically at children with disabilities.
The 23-year-old, who lives off Billington Road, said: “Whole new channels of communication can be opened up through taking part in the theatrical arts, potentially giving those with special educational needs and disability the opportunity to break down physical, social and emotional barriers.
“Being able to encourage and support them, watching them grow in confidence and self-esteem, is truly rewarding.”
The former Cedars Upper schoolgirl started volunteering with Leighton Buzzard Mencap when she was in Year 12. She says: “The charity came to our local sixth form to try to encourage young people to get involved.
“It looked like great fun and I’ve always had a passion for helping others and working with children.
“I started out at their summer holiday clubs and progressed to assistant leader.
“I now deliver performing arts workshops as one of the activities, so have seen first-hand their benefits and results.“
Mencap Holiday Club chair Gaye Beattie is a great admirer. She said: “Jade has what it takes to engage young people, even if they have a very short attention span.
“Her vitality and enthusiasm and sheer talent brings out the best in them. She is passionate about instilling confidence through dance and drama, and she does that brilliantly.
“The talents that unexpectedly spring out of the children never cease to amaze me.”
The weekly classes, limited to 10 people, are an hour long and cost £5 a session. There are three groups, ranging in age from four to 18, and each follows the same format – warm up and stretch, learning part of a routine that will be increased each week, collaborative choreography to encourage creativity and communication skills, a game and a cool down.
They take place at Leighton Town Football Club on Tuesdays. More information at www.spectrumca.co.uk