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Detroit Students Sing Their Way to College

Consider the Motown era's major stars: Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson. Theater CEO Rick Sperling notes that they all began their careers between the ages of 12 and 22. "I think a lot of people don't realize that, that these were teenagers that changed the world," he says.

It's a salient point for Sperling, who founded the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit in 1992. His group offers free training in theater, vocal music and stagecraft for young people between 12 and 18 years old.

Sperling recently decided to create a play based on the early days of Motown with his students, and this spring Now That I Can Dance -- Motown, 1962 debuted with teens running the show, literally. All aspects of the production, including backstage tech, marketing and scriptwriting, are handled by students with guidance from teachers.

The responsibility and work conferred on Mosaic's students, about 250 of them, pays off: Nearly all go to college -- even those from the inner city, where the high school graduation rate is about 44 percent. Celeste Headlee of Detroit Public Radio reports on an organization that dreams big, the way its students do.

Detroit Public Radio's Celeste Headlee reports.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Celeste Headlee