Today we’d like to introduce you to Tige Charity.
Tige, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am probably one of the most ordinary women you will ever meet, but one who had an encounter with destiny that guided me to my purpose: to do extraordinary work with foster youth. However, prior to that encounter, I was working a corporate job handling insurance claims for over 16 years, and was completely burnt out. I’d worked for a few different insurance companies throughout my career. In 2009, during the recession, I was laid off from a job where I was employed for 2 years. I found myself at a crossroads. I’d never been laid off from a job before and a part of me was relieved when it happened but also frustrated because I didn’t know what was next for me. I was certain that I never wanted another job handling insurance claims again.
Late one night, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably and begging God to please show me what on earth I was created to do. After I finished sobbing and settled down, I felt an overwhelming peace. God then reminded me of an encounter I had several years prior with a group of girls in foster care. My husband, Antonio D. Charity, was teaching an acting workshop at a foster care facility, and I accompanied him on that visit. After the workshop, the Director of the Mentorship program gave us a tour of the facility. When I saw the girls’ dorm rooms, my heart was overwhelmed with sympathy. I remember thinking to myself, “Why was I fortunate to be raised in a loving home with a mother and father and these kids are in foster care?” As we continued the tour of the facility, there was a group of girls misbehaving or “acting out.” My first reaction was judgment because they were misbehaving in the presence of company, but then I “checked” myself. I realized at that moment that those girls weren’t just “acting out”, but rather asking for attention. I remember asking the Director of the Mentorship program what I could do to help. She said the girls could really use positive mentors. I didn’t think mentoring would be a good fit for me because I felt sorry for those girls and I knew sympathy was not what they needed, so I did nothing.
Now, back to the night when I was sobbing, God reminded me of those girls in the group home and He began pouring into me the vision of Kids in the Spotlight. I envisioned a platform for foster youth to write, cast and star in their own short films, culminating in an annual “Movies by Kids, for Kids” Film Festival & Awards Celebration. I envisioned it being our version of the “Academy Awards” for kids in foster care. The next day, I started on my journey of creating Kids in the Spotlight, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, where kids in the foster care can heal and grow through the power of storytelling and filmmaking.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
This journey has been transformative. We’ve learned a great deal about the foster care system and building community partners. Our biggest challenge, as with many nonprofits, is the lack of funding. However, God blessed us with an amazing team of people who really came together to make the vision a reality and each year, we get more and more people who want to help with filmmaking. We get a lot of in-kind support. Our program is solid. However, we’re now working on building a sustainable infrastructure. We have a very small staff doing an enormous about of work to make sure we are giving our kids the best experience possible for them to succeed.
The impact that we are making in the lives of foster youth is too significant not to have a sustainable infrastructure.
The other challenge has been the lack of stability in the demographic of kids in the foster care system. Often times, kids get transferred, during the middle of our program, from one group home to another or from one foster family to another and when we lose even one of our kids, it’s heartbreaking; they have invested so much into writing their screenplays and we want them to experience it from script to screen.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Kids in the Spotlight – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Kids in the Spotlight provides a positive platform for foster youth ages 11-18 to heal and grow through the power of storytelling and filmmaking. Our participants write, cast and star in their own short films culminating in an annual “Movies by Kids Screening and Awards” event. We run a year round 10-15 week program at various residential group homes throughout Los Angeles.
I am the Founder and Executive Director of the organization. I oversee the program and manage the day to day operations which includes but are not limited to – securing foster care facilities that will host our program, attend speaking engagements to raise awareness about what KITS does and impact we’ve had on past students. I also research and acquire funding for operation and program costs. What I do best is dream big about the number of kids in foster care that our program can impact as we expand. My friends always call me the visionary, there is so much more than I see for our kids.
We are most proud of our kids’ success stories. On October 2nd of 2016, three of KITS’ filmmakers were invited to former President Barack Obama’s White House Film Festival and first ever South by South Lawn after creating a film entitled, “Time for Change”, one of 15 films chosen from a total of over 700 entries. One of our alumni students booked a national Ford commercial in 2016. One of our students is now represented by Coast-to-Coast Agency and has been auditioning a lot during the pilot season. Another one of our alumni students just directed his first major music video for the rock group, “Fall Out Boy”. These are just a few examples of our kids’ success stories and their success is our success. I could not be more proud of our participants. They are rewriting the end to their life story.
We are also very proud and most grateful for the industry support that we receive. Our celebrity ambassador, Ty Burrell, known as America’s Dad, Phil Dunphy, from ABC’s Modern Family, not only uses his platform to bring awareness about our program, but he also create opportunities for our kids to see live tapings of Modern Family and talk with different industry professionals who give step by step details of how they do their job. He visits the foster care facilities to teach an acting class, he hosts our annual “Movies by Kids” Screening and Awards event, and he generously donates to the organization. We also have celebrity directors who use their resources to make sure the kids’ films can be proudly represented on any major platform. Some of our other celebrity ambassadors are actor Kellee Stewart, actor Alphonso McCauley, motivational speaker Lisa Haisha, writer and producer Lee Aronsohn, actor and director Mo McRae, producer and director Robert Munic, actor and director Cady McClain, actor and director Jon Lindstrom, director David Mahmoudieh. We also have actors Nadine Ellis, Kelsey Scott, Dawnn Lewis and Mircea Monroe step in to teach acting and writing workshops.
We have also had a range of talent to support our events, star in our films and come out to encourage our kids. I’ll keep the list brief: Harry Lennix, Aisha Hinds, Tatyana Ali, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Kenny Lattimore, cast members of “Black-ish” and cast members of “Modern Family,” just to name a few. We have also been very fortunate to be the community partner for the Black Employees of Warner Bros. Their team of volunteers has impacted our organization in an enormous way. CBS Studio Center also provides volunteers on production days as well as equipment for filming. We can’t help but to be proud of the industry support around making a difference in the lives of foster youth.
What sets us apart is that our organization is mobile. We take the KITS program to our kids and they do every aspect of the program including filming at the residential group homes where they reside.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are now looking to expand into a performing arts boarding school for foster youth. Our organization wholeheartedly believe that creating a performing arts boarding school academy will provide stability to foster youth and give them the building blocks for academic success, as well as a creative outlet through the arts, which will ultimately equip them to make positive contributions to society.
Our goal is to change the negative statistics associated with foster youth by creating a permanent creative space to heal, grow and matriculate. We want to empower foster youth by providing a stable home and an educational experience specializing in the arts. We believe the arts is very therapeutic and can transform lives. We also believe our students have and will continue to develop a skill set and self-image that will enable them to rise above their current social and economic conditions, both during school and after graduation.
We are currently in the research stage of creating the school. We are identifying partners and community leaders who share our vision and passion for taking care of our foster youth. The school model will be designed for ninth through twelfth graders.
- Our current 10-15 week program generally cost $15,000 which serves up to 20 foster youth, producing 3 short films.
- Our annual “Movies by Kids” Screening and awards event cost approximately $25,000
- The DVD’s of our Kids’ films are available on our website for a donation of $10.00
- We want to raise $350,000 to start the groundwork for the KITS Performing Arts Academy.
- Address: 145 S. Glenoaks Blvd. #124
Burbank, CA 91502
- Website: www.kitsinc.org
- Phone: 818-945-2009
- Email: Jennifer@kitsinc.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kidsinthespotlight/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/kidsinthespotlight
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/KidsInSpotlight
Kids in the Spotlight