Xion Johnson was having a really tough time in school. As a seventh grader at Lucille Brown Middle, Xion had difficulty managing his emotions and felt bullied by fellow students. “When I first met Xion he told me everyone hates me,” CIS-R Coordinator Megan Prior recalled. She began to put a plan in place to help.
Ms. Prior matched Xion with a mentor from Concerned Black Men. “My mentor helped me with a lot of things like being a little tougher than I usually am,” Xion said. Deidre Johnson, Xion’s mom was thrilled to see her son connect with a positive male role model. “I’m a single mom and welcome all the help I can get to teach him how to be a good man”.
Knowing about Xion’s interests in theater, Ms. Prior also matched Xion with Art180 – a partner arts group offering after-school dramatic expression workshops. Xion’s participation in Art 180 offered him a safe place to be himself, make friends and explore the arts.
Instead of approaching each school day with fear, Xion now came to school ready to learn. Because of his significant progress and willingness to try new things, Ms. Prior nominated Xion for a Moving On Scholarship Award and a summer experience.
Xion’s choice for a summer camp was an easy one. SPARC’s (School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community) four-week Camp BRAVO! offered acting workshops, musical performance training and audition skills building. At the end of the four weeks, the campers put on a culminating performance for family and special guests. Xion surprised his mom with a solo appearance in the show.
“He didn’t tell me he had gotten the part, so when I came for the show it was a complete surprise.” Diedre said her heart soared. In less than a school year, her son went from feeling like an outsider to discovering a passion for acting and a new love of school.
The Moving On Award was just the start for Xion. SPARC’s Executive Director asked Xion to take part in their upcoming production of Once Upon A Mattress. Art 180 offered him a spot in their Youth Leadership Program. “Whenever I go to SPARC someone I’ve never met before tells me how amazing Xion is,” Diedre said.