Global Activism: CircEsteem uses circus arts to build child self-esteem

December 13, 2012

(Photo by Maribeth Joy)
CircEsteem at Cirque du Soliel
(Photo by Mary Rafferty)
CircEsteem at Sinfonieta
(Photo by Maribeth Joy)
CircEsteem jugglers
(Photo by Maribeth Joy)
CircEsteem juggles around WBEZ's Jerome McDonnell
(Photo by Maribeth Joy)
CircEsteem with Cirque Cast
(Photo by Maribeth Joy)
CircEsteem and Yo Yo Ma

It's Thursday! That means it's time for our Global Activism segment. Each Thursday, we talk with a person who decided to make the world a better place.

Today, we catch up with one of our Global Activists, Maribeth Joy, executive director of CircEsteem. For over a decade, CircEsteem’s stated mission has been to unite youth from diverse racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds, helping them build self-esteem and mutual respect through learning circus arts.

Maribeth says CircEsteem uses circus as a tool for social change. She reflects upon her work in this statement:

"In the nine years I have worked at CircEsteem, I have seen tremendous life transformations take place in many Chicago area youth.  I have had the privilege to work with and mentor low income at risk youth, many of whom were recent arrived refugees.  They came to CircEsteem with limited English language ability. Through our free afterschool tutoring program HomeWork & CircusWork, they received needed support to thrive in school and in their communities.  Circus teaches trust and team work. Together we have a created a community where everyone is welcomed and everyone has a place in the center ring!

CircEsteem uses circus as a tool for social change.  We provide academic assistance, employment opportunities, college scholarships and cross cultural experiences through international travel and partnerships.  We break down stereotypes of race, class, and gender while teaching kids how to juggle, unicycle, do partner acrobatics, and clown just around.  Most importantly, we help kids feel good about themselves by building self-esteem through the practice and performance of circus arts.

Our annual Winter Circus (December 15th & 16th, 2012) is proof that our mission works.  Over 120 kids from all over Chicago and as far away as Ethiopia, Tanzania, Burma and Togo will perform the circus skills they have learned while connecting with others quite different than themselves.  When the kids are on stage, it doesn’t matter where they are from or what type of car their parents drive - it’s about working together and creating something truly special - a circus of their own."

CircEsteem's Winter Circus takes place 12/15 & 12/16 at Alternatives, 4730 N. Sheridan Rd. in Chicago.