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franklin county times

Alum’s essay wins $1K for PCHS drama

The Phil Campbell High School drama department received a $1,000 grant, thanks to the efforts of a graduate of the school.

The money comes via Justin Branch’s winning essay in the “Your Start in the Arts” program through the New York Conservatory, where he auditioned, got a scholarship and spent a month this past summer.

Branch, a 2019 graduate of PCHS, said he wanted to help give back to the program that has meant so much to him. He said he first became interested in drama in seventh grade and eventually got better chances to participate more frequently, which fueled his enthusiasm, did a lot for his confidence and helped keep his creative juices flowing.

These days, he’s in Destin, Fla., though he said he plans to get back to New York when he can work it out.

“I had some incredible experiences in the drama department under Mrs. Susan Holt’s direction,” explained Branch. “I have tremendous respect for her. She’s one of the best teachers in the school, and I still miss being in her class.”

Branch said his experiences in high school theatre taught him about himself, his friends and the environment around him.

“Through various difficulties, I learned that I have it within me to embrace acting for what it really is,” he said, “and accept any and all challenges that come with the craft.”

The grant, received in February, is already benefiting PCHS drama students. Holt explained the money has been and will be used for costumes and possibly for props.

“The grant money has already come in very handy. We spent half on ordering costumes for this year’s senior play, a comedy entitled ‘The Murder Mystery Musical S.M.U.R.F.’ We did three performances, and we’ve gotten a tremendous number of compliments,” Holt said. “We’re saving the rest of the money for next year’s play.”

Holt wrote the play, and she creates a part for every senior who wants to participate.

“We’re so thankful to have this extra money so our students can have a better, more enjoyable high school theatre experience.”

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