In the South Shore Drill Team system, new recruits are divided up into small groups based on age and gender. Within all groups, team leaders teach their sections and serve as mentors. Rehearsals incorporate discussions on life skills while shaping members into polished performers.
It takes about a year for a child to learn how to march; as their level of performance improves, they advance through the ranks. Members with sufficient dedication and talent progress to the “Big Guard” – the organization’s top performance and leadership level. Opportunities to travel and perform motivate members to work hard in rehearsal and at school. Events in different venues and states allow children to see the world beyond their neighborhood and meet civic leaders, celebrities, and fellow performers.
Members of the team’s Dance Program learn a diverse dance repertoire influenced by classical music, hip hop, jazz, and modern dance. The program culminates with the Spring Show and Holiday Show, two blockbuster 90-minute events that showcase the talent of more than 200 young people.
The team also participates in Winter Guard International (WGI) competition to raise members’ level of performance and challenge them to compete against troupes from across the country and around the world.
South Shore Drill Team motivates its members not only to become polished performers, but to make positive choices in every aspect of their lives. The following are the programs the team offers to help members reach their potential beyond the stage.
The team connects students to tutoring programs and offers a computer lab for doing homework. Team staff members monitor grades and school attendance, and offer information about college and financial aid. Since all members must be students in good standing, those who are at risk for dropping out receive help to keep them in school. The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education revealed that the graduation rate for black males in Chicago Public Schools is 44%. The Drill Team sees 99% of its members graduate with their class and nearly all go on to college or technical school, breaking a cycle of poverty.
High school and college-age members instruct younger children under adult supervision. The team’s assistant instructors learn how to work with younger children, complete job-related paperwork, and be responsible. The stipends paid to instructors, while small, are often critical to helping first-generation college students pay for books and tuition.
Approximately 85% of team members come from inner-city neighborhoods where they are likely to encounter gang and drug activity on a daily basis. The At-Risk Youth Program is geared towards reducing negative influences and teaching youth who have gotten into trouble at school or in the neighborhood to take responsibility for their actions.
Members learn leadership skills and the importance of being involved in their community to bring about positive change.
The team helps youth whose families struggle to provide such basics as food, clothing, haircuts, and bus fare.