Children show off their skills, make new friends through the Trenton Circus Squad

Karen Rogers Image
Sunday, November 18, 2018
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Children show off their skills, make new friends through the Trenton Circus Squad. Karen Rogers reports during Action News at 6 a.m. on November 18, 2018.

TRENTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- Inside the unique space of the historic Roebling Wire Works building in Trenton, young lives are changing one act at a time.

Circus Squad members from Trenton and the suburbs gather together after school, working on their different techniques and skills.

The idea is to use the circus arts to build up relationships, trust and community engagement.

"We thought if we create something in Trenton that just looked like enormous fun with big German wheels and the unicycles it would bring youth from all over," says Zoe Brooks, Executive Director of Trenton Circus Squad. "Whoever you are, whatever you've got, there's something that we can use to enrich other people."

Zoe and her co-founder, Thomas Von Oehsen, who was trained at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, began the non-profit back in 2015.

The squad is open to all 12 to 18-year-olds and is free, so the group relies on donations.

For those who join, the only requirement is community service, which squad members do by teaching younger kids in workshops or performing free shows out in the community.

For Junior Coaches Kordell Garland and Shemar White, it's a place of great opportunity.

"Learning new skills and teaching it to others, going out and performing for the community, that's what makes it special," says Shemar.

"If you're a dancer you can come in here, if you like to skate or bike BMX you can come here and do that, if you do gymnastics you can do that. This is like the place where whatever you love to do, you can come and do it," says Kordell.

And bringing people together from different backgrounds is key.

"Kids from Princeton getting along great with kids from Trenton, and you know, a couple of us from farther away, we mix in well. It's really an opening, welcoming group," says Lila Knowles, a member of the Trenton Circus Squad.

"We're achieving integration of you that wouldn't otherwise meet," says Zoe.

"We've got kids from all over Jersey, not just a Trenton thing," Kordell says. "If they were just living their everyday life they probably never meet each other, but once they come here they act like they've known each other for years and that's cool."

The Circus Squad is also a change of pace from some of the trouble found in the streets of Trenton.

"We use this place as a sanctuary for these children to come here, learn skills, have fun and pass on skills to other kids," says Breanna Moreland.

And things come full circle in the ring as the students become the teachers.

"You're learning skills and you get to teach these on to other kids and we're hoping that they are going to come back and become squad members," Breanna says.

Breanna and the others just want to share the fun with everyone.

"Stop by, say hello, and try a little circus," she says.


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