Sponsored by the University of Saint Francis since its founding in 1978, Jesters is a performing group composed of individuals with mild to severe developmental disabilities ranging in age from eight to senior citizen.
Jesters provides 20 weeks of customized, arts education activities including structured movement/dance, music (instrumental and voice), theatre, animation, storytelling and visual arts every year from September to March. From September to December, all Jesters meet from 10 a.m. to noon. From noon to 2 p.m., Jesters who want to participate in afternoon activities bring a sack lunch and work in smaller groups in the discipline of their choice. In the spring, the Jesters program culminates in an original production performed by Jesters participants.
Jesters who want to participate in this performance opportunity are expected to regularly attend the Jesters program on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., January through March.
The mission of the Jesters is to engage individuals with disabilities in the creative arts to enhance their quality of life. The vision is to develop self-expression, self-esteem, socialization and other life skills while providing learning opportunities to the USF and at-large communities. As a result of the program, participants achieve the following outcomes:
- Gain creative tools for self-expression
- Gain artistic skills in movement and dance, music (instrumental and vocal), theatre and visual arts
- Enhance self-esteem and gain a sense of belonging
- Experience healthy social relationships
- Experience positive use of leisure time
- Enhance life skills such as focus, time management, responsibility and communication
- Experience positive interaction with volunteers, students and family members
In addition, the program provides the following opportunities and benefits to students, volunteers, caregivers and the community:
- Enhanced community involvement
- Meaningful volunteer opportunities
- Increased skills in working with people with special needs
- Enhanced positive interactions and healthy relationships with people with special needs
- Increased understanding and skills related to the way performing arts and visual arts activities can be used to enhance positive outcomes for people with special needs
- Respite and an informal support network for caregivers