April 18, 2022
We’re excited to announce the first $10,000 Non-profit Grant recipient of 2022. Congratulations to Liz Taylor, Executive Director of Uprise Circus.
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Jama Hernandez sat down with Liz for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Hi everyone. My name is Jama Hernandez and I’m with the WomensNet Advisory Board. I’m so excited to introduce to you our first nonprofit winner for the year 2022. And that is Uprise Circus. We are so excited about the awesome things that they’re doing. And today we’re gonna be speaking with Liz; she is the Executive Director and Vice President. Liz, thank you so much for being with us today.
Liz: Thank you for having us.
WomensNet: Can you tell our audience a little bit about your organization and what you’re doing?
Liz: Uprise Circus is the only social circus in Texas. That means we use flying trapeze as a tool, and other circus arts to teach lessons of perseverance and social development to teens in our area.
WomensNet: If you had to summarize how that’s being done, or why you’re doing it, can you help our listeners understand?
Liz: So, we’re in Austin, in the capital of Texas. There are 35,000 youth living in poverty. And so that’s kind of our target area; hitting those kids that maybe aren’t involved in other programs, or have some additional issues. Maybe they’re struggling with mental health, which is super common from COVID. They might be a person of color or having issues related to LGBTQ. And so, we really wanted to not let those kids fall through the cracks and pick them up and give them the support that they need and the confidence that they’re maybe lacking. We all were teens once… we know how it is. So, we really bring them in and make them feel supported. So much of what we do is circus, but it all has that underlying mission of just really making them feel good and connected.
WomensNet: If you are a child participating in your program, what would it look like for them?
Liz: We have two kinds of classes. The first is an introductory type class. And so we hold several of those each year where kids can come out and try it and see if it’s a good fit for them. And then if they like it, they can sign up for our series. It’s free for them, thanks to grants such as this wonderful program. And they come every week for six or eight weeks, depending on what time year it is. Sometimes at the end we wrap that up with a student show, where we make it as close to an authentic circus experience as possible with costumes. And we do their hair and makeup, and there’s music, and they can invite their families and friends to come watch.
WomensNet: How is your program going to use the grant funds?
Liz: We’re women-run, women-started. And all of us women have other jobs. One of us is a physician. We all have different jobs outside of this. But this is our passion. And so we put in the hours, but there’s only 24 hours in a day. And so thanks to this grant, we’re gonna be able to hire someone to come in and help with the tasks that need to be kept up with. Like sending reminders to students and making sure that they they’ve applied and they’re coming/on time. That’s gonna give the rest of us time to focus on the program and expanding the program, to reach more kids. The other half of the grant is going to be to create a summer program, which we’ve never been able to do before because of funding. And so we’re super excited to offer a program this summer and really pick up the slack and give kids something to do during the summer that’s staying involved and meeting up with their friends. And we’re just so excited. It’s gonna be a nighttime class too, which will be fun.
WomensNet: When children go through your six-week program, what kind of transformation are you seeing?
Liz: We schedule each class identically. And so they know what to expect, because our population tends to maybe not have as much structure in their home life. And so we do an emotional check-in and teach ’em the language like, oh, you know, talk about how you’re feeling. We do games to kind of get them to connect with each other. And then we do flying and everything else related to the circus programming. The way that we measure that data is on day one of the series. We have them fill out a questionnaire and it talks about questions related to our mission, like what we’re hoping to accomplish for them.
So, you know, how are you feeling? Do you feel like you could conquer things and do you feel like you have friends here, and do you have friends at school? … Relating it back to their everyday life. Then at the end of this series, we interview them again. And every time this is just tremendous growth and you see kids come in angry or crying or upset on day one. By the end, they’re smiling, they’re confident, they’re showing their peers how to do something that they learned how to do. It’s amazing how much they get done in just six weeks time. And then we do have some of the kids come back, series after series, so it doesn’t just end there for them.
WomensNet: How can the WomensNet community continue to show support for your business?
Liz: That would be amazing. For our kids, it costs us about $65 to have one kid participate in one class. And so if somebody would be interested in supporting a kid, they could buy their six weeks, six times 65, or they could just sponsor one class. That would be amazing, because we hate turning people away. And so far, we really haven’t had to, thankfully. But that is one way — monetarily.
And the other way is just helping us get the word out. As a small business and a nonprofit, we don’t have a ton of money to put into marketing and social media. So, even just sharing our mission and sharing Uprise Circus is so helpful to us.
WomensNet: And how do we get to know Uprise Circus?
Liz: We have our website uprisecircus.org, and we also are pretty active on Facebook. So following us there, as well as Instagram. On Instagram, we tend to just post videos of our program and the cool tricks that people are working on. We also have a newsletter that you can sign up for on our website, uprisecircus.org. The other thing that we offer, kind of going back to connecting with us and supporting our program, we do have private classes. So once in awhile, someone will want to celebrate their birthday and they’ll book a two hour lesson just for them. And every spot that they purchase, we just take that money and flip it right into a spot for a kid. And so it’s one to one.
WomensNet: Thank you so much for spending time with us today and letting us know a little bit about your nonprofit. [To the WomensNet community] …make sure to visit uprisecircus.org for more information.