Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bay area theater program wins national honor, $10,000 grant

Fran Powers, Powerstories Theatre founder, from left, and Naomi Diaz, Girlstories representative, receive a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from Michelle Obama.

Courtesy Powerstories Theatre

Fran Powers, Powerstories Theatre founder, from left, and Naomi Diaz, Girlstories representative, receive a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from Michelle Obama.

TAMPA — Naomi Diaz has become the new "it" girl among her friends.

That's no surprise. How many 13-year-olds can say they went to the White House and got a hug from first lady Michelle Obama?

The honor came by way of a unique afterschool program called Girlstories Leadership Theatre.

Just 3 years old, Girlstories recently earned a place among 15 theater groups nationwide to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from Obama.

More than 400 groups had been considered for the award and its $10,000 grant.

Girlstories is part of Powerstories Theatre, founded in 1998 by Fran Powers. Along with Janice Nepon-Sixt, Powers started Girlstories three years ago. The program partners with existing social service agencies serving mainly at-risk girls 10 to 17 years old. Its workshops use dramatics, storytelling, writing and other activities to help 20 selected girls from the Tampa Bay area to communicate more effectively. They learn to perform and tell their own stories with confidence.

Naomi, who mentors younger girls in the program, was chosen to represent the group during a special ceremony in Washington.

"I was a little bit nervous when I was about to go on stage," Naomi said this week. "But when the first lady hugged me and said hello, I didn't think of anything else."

Powers, who also attended the Oct. 20 ceremony, said the White House experience was "surreal," complete with multiple security checks, celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and other dignitaries.

"She (Michelle Obama) has a wonderful aura about her; tall and regal and so warm," Powers said. "And during her speech she mentioned our theater and thanked us for what we were doing for the arts. To have her mention Powerstories by name, I lit up like a light bulb."

The honor is a highlight for Powerstories, housed in an office on Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa. Rehearsals are held in an all-purpose room at St. Peter Claver Catholic School in Ybor City, and organizers say the $10,000 is sorely needed. They plan to use the grant money to pay for basic expenses.

This week, the group readied to celebrate its accomplishment at an event was planned for Thursday at the Tampa Bay History Center. The Children's Board of Hillsborough County, the Helios Education Foundation and private donors were to be sponsors.

Aside from the Girlstories program, Powerstories also produces an annual play that travels to Tampa Bay area elementary schools, starting in late summer. This year's play, The Mighty M.E. Mission, focuses on the environment. The "M.E." stands for Mother Earth and me — as in each individual can save the Earth, said Nepon-Sixt, director of girls programs.

"We're all about fostering strong voices in girls, so we do want to hear what's on their mind," Nepon-Sixt said. "However, our common goal is that we have to put this play together."

Naomi, who has been involved in singing, acting, dancing and chorus most of her life, said she enjoys the mentoring role that stems from Girlstories.

At Charles S. Rushe Middle School in Land O'Lakes where she is a student, her peers have been talking — in a good way.

"Everybody's been coming up to me and asking, 'You met Michelle Obama for real?' " Naomi said. "It's really cool. They put it on the morning news (announcements) and everyone is asking for photos of me with Michelle Obama."

The experience has fostered growth.

"I've noticed I can do a lot after representing (Powerstories) in Washington," Naomi said. "It's an amazing experience that will affect my entire life. I feel like I'm helping the community stand out more and realize there are groups and people in the community that are doing a lot of good things."

Joel Poiley can be reached at [email protected]

.fast facts

Details available

For more information on Powerstories Theatre and the Girlstories Leadership Theatre program, call Fran Powers at (813) 205-3451.

Bay area theater program wins national honor, $10,000 grant 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code


    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  2. A punter is the state's only first-team, midseason All-American


    Here's another indictment of how mediocre the state's college football season has become.

  3. Fred Ridley on the Road to Augusta


    Last week, I sat down with Fred Ridley, the new chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. Ridley, a lawyer who has resided in Tampa since 1981, was the 1975 U.S. Amateur champion and is the only Chairman to have played in the Masters. I wrote a long story on Ridley, but here are some of the other …

    Fred Ridley, looks on during the Green Jacket Ceremony during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament in April at Augusta National Golf Club.
  4. Tampa police link two shootings, tell Seminole Heights residents to avoid walking alone


    TAMPA — One was a 22-year-old African American man. The other was a 32-year-old white woman.

    A small memorial sits in the grassy lot on East Orleans Avenue in Seminole Heights where 32-year-old Monica Hoffa's body was found Friday. Hoffa had been shot to death, and Tampa police say they believe her killing is related to the shooting death of Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22, at a bus stop near N 15th Street and E Frierson Avenue on Oct. 9. There are no clear motives, however, and police have asked to residents to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and avoid traveling alone at night. JONATHAN CAPRIEL/Times staff
  5. Pinellas Sheriff deputies T. Festa, left, and J. Short, righ,t arrest suspect Christopher Parsells, Pinellas Park, early Tuesday as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]