With funding for the arts steadily dwindling in public schools, community theater programs are playing a bigger role in introducing children to music, drama and stage performance.
The Performing Arts Academy, or PAA, in Highlands Ranch, has an even bigger mission.
"Our mission is to create transformative experiences for these students," said Dr. James Ramsey, PAA's executive director.
When Ramsey started the program 10 years ago, there were about two dozen kids learning a handful of musical numbers.
Now, PAA is year-round and about 750 students will take the stage or work behind-the-scenes this year in children's productions.
"It is open to everybody who wants to be part of it because our goal is to transform these kids' lives, turn them into contributors verses consumers and build their self-confidence and self-esteem through the performing arts," Ramsey told The NOW Denver Anchor Theresa Marchetta.
The staff of 10 theater professionals includes actors, masters of set design, directors, producers and a former Radio City Rockette.
Classes at the summer intensive camps include music theory, acting, improvisation, dance and tech and stage crew.
"It's helped me learn more about who I am as a person, because at school you have to find a way to fit in. But (in) this program, there's no clicks here," said Highlands Ranch High School junior Devin Sharpe, who was one of the original students when PAA first started.
"It's not like we're just babysitting and saying, 'Let's put on a show.' It is so much more than that," said Ramsey.
The students who take part in the program agree.
"I've done a lot of construction projects at home because of what I've learned here at PAA," said Dan Speedy, 16, a junior at Mountain Vista High School who specializes on the tech side, making sure the actors are heard on stage.
"It's helped me expand my horizons and meet new people and friends," said Platte River Academy 6th grader, Liza Hayden.
"You get to interact with people in a way you wouldn't normally," said Jordan Lee, a sophomore at Thunder Ridge High School.
Ramsey said fund raising is important so that PAA can offer scholarships and payment plans to families who otherwise would not be able to afford to send their children to the program.
PAA also does in nearby public schools.
For more information on summer and fall programs and how you can support PAA, click here .