American Youth Circus Organization in a joint project with Cirque du Soleil recognizes International School of Louisiana Circus arts program as one of 17 Social Circus programs in the USA


The International School of Louisiana Circus arts program is happy to share the following news with you:

For Immediate Release:

American Youth Circus Organization recognizes 17 Social Circus programs that boost outcomes for youth at risk

February 19, 2016

Across the country, teachers, coaches and social workers are harnessing the power of circus arts to help at-risk youth. Today, through a joint project with Cirque du Soleil, 17 Social Circus programs are receiving a major boost as the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) announces a network of recognized programs.

As Melvin Diggs, graduate of the St Louis, MO program, Circus Harmony, says: “Circus didn’t change my life.  It saved my life.”  Diggs grew up expecting to join a gang, deal in drugs and face a life of violence. Instead, he found somewhere to belong, to be challenged, and to excel. Today, he tours the world performing circus arts.  

Only a handful of youth who join Social Circus programs actually become performers. But they all develop a sense of empowerment, tenacity and confidence that helps them find a positive path and overcome barriers in their lives.

“This network will help Social Circuses achieve the next level of impact,” says AYCO Executive Director, Amy Cohen. “The network will encourage program innovation, increased understanding of the impact of circus arts programming and an opportunity for funders to connect with multiple organizations across the country.”

Social Circus is the application of the art and culture of the circus to help address social issues. Each recognized program is carefully designed to meet the needs of participants, and demonstrates a commitment to measuring outcomes.

“Social circus promotes creative youth and community development beyond what can be achieved through other sports and arts activities,” explains Cohen, drawing attention to her organization’s findings from a recent initiative, funded by Cirque du Soleil.

AYCO’s Social Circus Initiative highlights four benefits of social circus demonstrated by network members. Their recent meta-study of sector research concludes that social circus:

  • Promotes physical and mental health and wellness

  • Fosters human connection and belonging

  • Encourages civic engagement and cultural and socioeconomic integration

  • Builds resilience

The Social Circus Network will promote collective action among its members, including further research into the potential for circus programming to move the needle on key outcomes, such as the ability to survive childhood trauma, improvements in high school graduation rates and teens’ ability to make positive choices for their own lives.

The Network will also provide advice and training for Social Circus programs and engage with funders on a national scale to grow existing programs and launch new program in urban centers where no program exists. Anik Couture, Head of Community Relations for Cirque du Soleil, says “We are delighted to have been able to support this initiative financially and as advisors. Cirque du Soleil supports the growth of Social Circus around the world with great effect and we are excited to see this work take hold in the USA”.

Among the programs receiving recognition at the launch of the network is:

International School of Louisiana Circus Arts Program, New Orleans, LA (contact Meret Ryhiner Tel: (228) 342-3938)

ISL Circus arts program

The Circus arts program at the International School of Louisiana fosters the School’s mission of celebrating diversity and community responsibility and provides an exciting way for students to experience international awareness. More then half of ISL’s students are on free and reduced lunch programs. As a comprehensive movement program it follows the National Arts Standards for Dance and features Circus arts skills.
Emphasis in K-1st grade is on practicing executive skills. 
Emphasis in 2nd and 3rd grade is on exploring core subjects with circus arts integrated curriculum units.
Emphasis in 4th – 8th grade on building the skills necessary to use the Circus arts medium expressively and creatively, as well as to participate in community events performing and presenting workshops as Circus arts ambassadors.

Zoe Brookes, the lead consultant who worked on the project and recognized the first batch of programs, was impressed with ISL: “We recognize programs that identify a specific population with a specific need, and design circus-related curriculum to help meet that need. We also look for programs with a commitment to evaluating results. The circus program at ISL meets all those criteria.”

The American Youth Circus Organization promotes the participation of youth in circus arts and supports circus educators. Founded in 1998, AYCO supplies the organizing force for youth circus in the USA, and for circus educators through its American Circus Educators branch. Visit  and

Network details at http://

Buzzfeed list of 17 circus organizations that are changing the world - here is the link to it:

Photo credits:
All the Jazz Fest 2015 photos are by Cheryl Gerber,
Check out her amazing  "ISL Circus Arts" images using the following link:
If prompted, enter this password: islguest  (courtesy Cheryl Gerber)

All the photos from the End-of-the-Year Show under the Big Oak 2015 are by Lan Wei, ISL Chinese Teacher!

Favorite older photos:   Zack Smith 

Cirque Du Soleil logo used with permission from the Social Circus Initiative

ISL Circus arts program is presently an oganizational member of AYCO and ACE

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