The next Australian Idol or ballet star may get the head start they need in performing arts through the help of the Hobsons Bay Community Fund.
Last year, the community fund gave a grant to the Artz Collective in Spotswood to enable young disadvantaged students to take part in the Westkidz Arts Access Scheme.
The funding has given three young people a chance to achieve their dreams of developing a future in the performing arts.
The Artz Collective was founded by its principal Ziggy Clements about 11 years ago to teach children a range of performing arts such as ballet, tap or jazz dancing, singing and drama.
At any one time the performing arts school may have 50-100 students being taught by the collective's talented group of teachers.
"We focus on children from three to 16 years," Ms Clements said.
"While many of our students come from middle class families and their parents can afford the tuition, we found that since moving to Spotswood, the demographics of our new neighbourhood did not correlate with the demographics of our clientele.
"We have found that there are many barriers to developing kids' talents, such as ethnicity, language, different culture and financial and social hardships.
"The Westkidz Arts Access Scheme is designed to give some young people a chance to develop their interests in the performing arts that they may not normally have."
Ms Clements said the three students sponsored by the Hobsons Bay Community Fund came from different backgrounds.
The one common feature was that they all wanted to succeed in the performing arts.
They include seven year old Jessica (name withheld at request of her parents), whose parents are Vietnamese migrants.
"Jessica saw one of our performances in Footscray and wanted to learn through our school but her parents had difficulty approaching us due to a language barrier," Ms Clements said.
"When they came to see us, we recognised quickly Jessica had a fair bit of talent that needed nurturing.
"Asian cultures have more emphasis on their own cultural arts, particularly for migrants.
"So it has been quite a challenge for Jessica's parents to give their daughter the opportunity to develop her talent for performing arts quite different to their culture."
Another student is 14 year old Joshua Walsh, who came from a difficult family background and had no academic focus at school but found a passion for dance.
Joshua has set his sights on enrolling in the Victorian College of the Arts, but needed to learn ballet.
Through the Westkidz Arts Access Scheme, he has taken up learning ballet with dedication that even surprises Ms Clements.
"I have never seen a kid with more dedication than Joshua," she said.
"He is desperate to have a career in dancing and there is no stopping him succeeding in what he wants to do."
Ms Clements said giving an opportunity to young people such as Jessica and Joshua had an enormous impact on their families and other kids around them.
She said the families of all the students involved in the sponsorship program were enormously proud of what they have achieved so far.
"The families are so proud of the life achievement of their child," she said.
"It has given the whole family a sense of self worth.
"And parents see a change with the kids around them – either from their brother or sister or the other kids at their school.
"We know they have become role models for other kids.
"In the case of Joshua, for example, we see great incentive for other boys to take up ballet."
Ms Clements said the Hobsons Bay Community Fund had opened doors for three talented young people while at the same time taken a burden off their families.
"It has given them an opportunity where there wouldn't have been one," she said.
"Being able to take part in the program has done much for their self confidence and determination."
Hobsons Bay Community Fund chairman Hayden Raysmith said the fund was pleased to help give disadvantaged young people an opportunity to develop their artistic talents and potentially set up a career for themselves in the performing arts.
"While there is a lot of focus on kids sport in our community, we should recognise the arts are just as important," Mr Raysmith said.
"We know that the Artz Collective has helped develop some amazing young talents, including a finalist on Australian Idol and one of the leading roles in the Billy Elliot musical.
"Who knows where these three young kids the Hobsons Bay Community Fund has sponsored will end up.
"Even if it is not under the big lights, the life skills and experience they will gain from this opportunity I am sure is going to carry them in good stead for their futures."
The Hobsons Bay Community Fund is currently assessing grant applications for 2011, with a dinner planned for November 12 to announce this year's recipients.
For more information about the community fund, go to the www.hbcommunityfund.org.au website or contact Hayden Raysmith, Hobsons Bay Community Fund, 0407-826-775