“We LOVE your program and really appreciate what you provide. Being a special needs family can feel isolating at times and you are like a big hug from the wider world..” – Parent of a participant from Summer Camp
Our Founder and Executive Director, Joshua Levy, created Joshua's Stage with the humble intention to create a warm and welcoming environment for individuals with special needs to feel like they can be who they are while they demonstrate their creativity and increase their self-confidence.
Joshua recalls several children across his 9-year adventure as a special education teacher and as an assistant principal who wanted nothing more than to feel accepted by his/her or peers and by his/her teachers. The frequent misbehaviors the kids acted out were cries for attention, perhaps not communicated appropriately, but deep down Joshua knew that this was a loving child, just like any other child, who wanted nothing more than to find ways to self-manage and to not be seen as different, or at least be celebrated for being different.
Joshua was aware that punishment and negative consequences weren't necessarily the best way to manage the kids' emotions and behavior choices, but early in his teaching days he didn't have the confidence to try other ways. As he grew into his role as a teacher and as a school administrator, Joshua learned to rely on his creative side - he wrote stories and plays just like he used to do when he was a kid - specifically creating characters in skits and plays to each student's reading ability, and the characters had fun and ofetn times over the top personalities. Within seconds of reading the lines, his students were engaged, motivated, laughing, getting along with one another, and for a few, brief memorable moments there was a special synergy in the air. The negativity and the bravado from the students vanished, those moments were unique and they were pure. They brought Joshua back to his childhood of when he was writing plays and stories with the idea to bring others together, his true passion, his true calling was set at an early age. Joshua knew that he was going to serve others, and he became aware that he was going to make a difference in the world.
It took 9 years in the business world, and getting an MBA along the way, to complete one stage of the journey, and to move on to the next one. In September 2015 the Universe - or as Joshua is allowing himself to recognize it as God - called. It was a powerful moment: a wave of emotion and thought; visions over the years of writing stories and plays; memories of reaching kids' hearts to get to their minds; his mother encouraging him to pursue a major in special education; his wife; his kids; his entire being. It was all out there in that call - the calling that day that started this amazing adventure of Joshua's Stage.
So, why in the world are you going to give to Joshua's Stage when there are so many other nonprofit organizations out there? The answer resides within the what - what are you giving to Joshua's Stage? Not so much the amount, but more so the lifeline. Joshua created this amazing organization so that all families from all backgrounds and income levels including a lack thereof, can participate, and feel welcomed and accepted. So that each participant can laugh with others who are just like them, a place to feel celebrated for doing something that may otherwise catch a stranger's awkward glance somewhere else.
The phone calls and emails with parents in tears because their child has been "disinvited" from coming back to other programs, yes an actual word a heartfelt parent used was "disinvited", and such words and experiences are increasing.
The successful and innovative program that Joshua created for others to thrive in, and that is still forming to this day - The Creative Outlet Method™ - must be sustainable, and it must be accessible to everyone. Give, and be a part of the adventure at Joshua's Stage.