Actress Introduces D.C. Students to Arts

Seventh-grader Stephen Galberth talks about the making of a documentary during an arts class started by former child star Kellie Williams.
Seventh-grader Stephen Galberth talks about the making of a documentary during an arts class started by former child star Kellie Williams. (Susan Biddle - Twp)
By Chantel Harley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006

She is perhaps best known for her Hollywood role as Laura Winslow (the dream girl of the Steve Urkel character) on the long-running sitcom "Family Matters."

Former child star Kellie Williams has moved back home to the Washington area and recently started a fine arts program designed to provide youths the kinds of experiences she once got through the Howard University Children's Theatre.

The new Kellie Williams Programs recently formed a partnership with the William E. Doar Jr. Public Charter School for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2004 in Northeast. So far, seven Doar students have signed up, and they meet at school every evening. The after-school program plans to expand and is open to all.

"I wanted to create a program similar to the one I grew up with, [Howard University Children's Theatre] started by Kelsey Collie," Williams said. "I wanted to bring it to the masses, not to just people who were familiar with the arts but to people who had never experienced any art."

Williams, who attended what is now Thomas G. Pullen K-8 Arts Focus School in Prince George's County, said she envisioned the idea for her program about four years ago, which motivated her to move home to Bowie from California. In recent years, she has had cameos on other television sitcoms, such as "Girlfriends," "Eve" and "The Parkers," and she still occasionally goes on auditions. She said she thinks her calling is working with young people, helping to expose them to the arts.

Two years ago, she met Shelvee Casey, who at the time was an elementary school teacher and entertainment executive. The two became friends and then partners in creating the arts initiative.

"We decided that by fall 2006 we were going to start this program, do or die," Casey said.

Last month, the duo reached their goal by partnering with the Doar school.

"We found each other," said Nadia Casseus, director of the school. "We were looking for a program that would take our students to levels that we could not provide for them. We wanted them to get more exposure to the arts and the varying media. We wanted them to understand that they don't have to sing or paint, but they can also work with cameras, write scores and use the gifts they have in other mediums."

For the past month, the students have been learning about the technical aspects of producing commercials and interviews for television. They also are learning how to produce an awards show, which might even air on television.

While brainstorming ideas for the show, one student shouted out: "We should have a leadership award."

Another student asked, "Who should we invite to the show?"

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