Listening to the Voice of the Youth


Kate Peters can't forget that Sunday evening in church 30 years ago. The scene is still fresh in her mind: angry people storming out as she and her friends expressed their ideas in words and music about how messed up their world was. Many of the adults didn't like it. "I thought to myself, 'what a shame', said Peters, 48. "If only they'd let us say what we had wanted to say and had listened. How wonderful that would have been for us as kids.

That idea stuck, and it prompted the Yorba Linda resident to launch TEAM CABARET two years ago, a program for teens that gives them a chance to do what Peters and her buddies couldn't that evening in 1970-to express their thoughts and feelings without being afraid.

Most of the teens involved with TEAM CABARET are students at Fullerton High School, where the program is based. Last year, the Fullerton officials presented the group a plaque for cultural contributions in the city, Peters said. The Orange County Business Committee for the Arts has also recognized TEAM CABARET with two achievement awards.

For three months, students get together and work on a monologue and song they perform at the end of the program. "It could be any issue," Peters said. "It could be 'School's tough ' or 'I'm happy with my boyfriend,' or it could be 'My parents got divorced.'" Sometimes, students have shocked her by opening up and sharing their most intimate concerns. "There was this boy who surprised all of us in the group by talking about his mother, who was a crack addict," she said. "It's not therapy but a chance for kids to say things they can't say in other places." That is exactly what Crystal Cuevas said she like about her experience. "I liked the way I got to express myself," she said. "I talked there like I'd never talked with anyone. I said things I'd never said before." Cuevas composed a monologue about her older brother, Josh, who is a student at Fullerton High School, and how he's always been there for her. "I got to talk about how he helps me with my music and stuff, she said. "We're really close."

For Peters, a music teacher for 20 years, her greatest reward comes from seeing her students blossom into confident performers. "I just love the process," she said. "I'm with them every step of the way, and I see the evolution of their thoughts and feelings. That makes me happy."

-LA Times, Our Times Sept 1999

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