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A Look Inside a Week of ACT Classes

Student Sebastian Craigie and his mom, Barb, share their experiences.

ACT student, Sebastian, posing with his polymer clay pumpkins. His communication iPad is seen in front of him

Sebastian Craigie has become a “regular” at ACT: We see him on Mondays for the Ukulele Club & ACTion Drummers, on Tuesdays for Signing through Movement & Polymer Clay Creations, and Thursdays for ACTion Choir.

Sebastian is 21 years old. His favorite color is usually blue, but lately he's been into red - colors he likes to mix when he gets slushies each week. He loves music and instruments but started showing interest in visual art after watching his peers at ACT. In fact, he wasn’t initially signed up for Polymer Clay Creations, but after the dance session ended, he grabbed a chair and made clear he was staying for the next class, so his mom, Barb, signed him up for that too.

Barb Craigie contacted ACT a few times over the past couple of years, intending to sign Sebastian up for classes, but each time life’s chaos took over and it never worked out. She heard about ACT from Teaching Artist John Nowak, who was Sebastian’s high school music teacher. After coming to an ACT event at Frederik Meijer Gardens last summer, Barb registered Sebastian for every single fall class for adults. Sebastian has been thrilled to also be reunited with John Nowak through the Ukulele Club, a class John began teaching in September 2021.

“I was trying to fill his life with good things and this has been the best experience for him. On Sundays, we go over what we have coming up — he’s always talking about ACT,” shared Barb when we sat down with her on a recent Monday evening. When asked why ACT classes have become an important part of their week, Barb reflected that it’s been “...for him to be part of something...And happy. And included,” she shared “It has been so good.”

A side view of Sebastian focused on drawing with markers during class.

Sebastian is non-verbal and uses an iPad to communicate. When asked which class he loves most, he pointed out all of them and told us each class makes him feel happy. While he may not want to pick a favorite, Barb says ACTion Choir is where he is most excited. Though you may not hear him sing, he’s dancing, following along with the lyrics happily, and expressing himself, which she loves to see. Led by Teaching Artist Erinn Epp, the ACTion Choir has been part of ACT’s programs since 2005 and back this fall after an 18-month hiatus due to COVID. The choir brings together individuals like Sebastian and groups from high school and transition special education classrooms.

The Signing through Movement class also makes Sebastian light up. This is a unique class where American Sign Language is incorporated into group dances. This was made possible by a partnership with Creative Arts Repertoire Ensemble (CARE) Ballet, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting dance in West Michigan.

We had a chance to ask Sebastian a few questions on his break between Ukulele Club & ACTion Drummers and it was clear he loves coming to ACT. After a farewell fist bump and a thank you, Sebastian headed to drum with Teaching Artist Josh Dunigan. This particular evening, he practiced a solo in front of the group with Barb cheering him on from the doorway.

Barb shared for her personally, she has most appreciated “how open everyone [at ACT] has been...It doesn’t matter who the person is, whether it’s a [volunteer, staff, or fellow student], they treat everyone, including Sebastian, so kindly and like there isn’t anything he can’t do.”

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