Bringing Joy and Art to the Next Generation
In 2008, Ellen Michelson came upon an editorial piece in the Star Tribune entitled, “Want to motivate students? Try theater. Project SUCCESS does, and it’s winning lots of praise.” She was inspired and intrigued. She reached out to Project SUCCESS Executive Director Adrienne Diercks to learn more.
Through tours of our program activities and learning about our plans to expand our program to more schools, Ellen became convinced that Project SUCCESS was an organization that was worth significant investment, particularly because of the access to arts education that Project SUCCESS provides each student we serve.
In May of 2008, her family foundation made a three-year commitment of $195,000 to fully fund expansion into Sanford Middle School. Sanford had been on the Project SUCCESS waiting list for years, and the foundation’s investment made it possible to launch our full program of workshops, theater experiences and enrichment activities for all 377 of Sanford's 6th, 7th and 8th grade students and their families.
The investment brought great returns, including more motivated students prepared for high school, engaged families, and the launch of a very successful school musical program produced by Project SUCCESS. Since its premiere in 2009, Project SUCCESS has worked hand-in-hand with Sanford Middle School students to produce and perform their annual school musical, including Annie, The Wiz, Just So, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, A Year with Frog and Toad, and most recently You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in December 2014.
"I appreciate how Project SUCCESS does not prescribe a one-size-fits-all definition of what success means in the lives of the students they serve. They ask each student to recognize what makes them unique individuals and to look inward to better understand what life could become for them. Project SUCCESS not only teaches young people how to set life goals, but helps them see a way to reach those goals. This approach allows each student to craft their own unique version of success. Creativity and caring, two things we value most at Aroha Philanthropies, are at the center of Project SUCCESS’ twenty years of consistently positive results."
– Ellen Michelson, President of Aroha Philanthropies
In 2011, Ellen increased the foundation’s investment to help Project SUCCESS finish our expansion to all seven high schools in Minneapolis by providing the funds to bring our entire program to Edison High School.
Since 2008, under Ellen’s leadership the foundation has provided sustaining support for our work at Sanford and Edison, and has also made significant investments in research and development for our program model and curriculum replication, expansion into our new space in 2010, and strategic planning and growth initiatives.
Most recently Aroha Philanthropies made a $1 million commitment over three years, our largest single commitment in the history of the organization. Aroha Philanthropies is committed to improving the quality of learning for children and youth by advancing the development of professional teaching artists working with them and encouraging the funding, development and proliferation of arts programs. By making this investment in Project SUCCESS, Ellen hopes to inspire others to follow her lead in supporting a program that works.
For more information on how to donate to Project SUCCESS’ campaign for growth, click here to e-mail Emily Heagle, director of development and communications, or call 612-874-0776 .