Open house gives creative kids a taste of A.C.T. High School

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Thu., Dec. 20, 2012
Willimantic resident Kevin Kissane shares a sample of his writing with prospective ACT students and their parents at a school open house on Dec. 19. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Willimantic resident Kevin Kissane shares a sample of his writing with prospective ACT students and their parents at a school open house on Dec. 19. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Dec. 20 marked the 10th annual open house for EASTCONN’s A.C.T. (Arts at the Capitol Theater) High School. The open house provides an opportunity for creative middle school kids thinking of enrollment to get a glimpse inside of A.C.T., and for parents to have their questions answered. The evening featured an overview of the school, as well as performances from students currently enrolled. A.C.T. offers programs in acting, audio /video, creative writing and theater production.

A theme that arose again and again - as students, teachers, administrators and parents stood up to speak - was community. Tracy Giroux, the mother of A.C.T. students Josh and Austin, said the family was first drawn to the school “because my children have an interest in the arts,” she said. Her older son, who is now a senior, signed up for a shadow day, where prospective new students spend a day at the school. He was struck by the atmosphere of acceptance he encountered there. The family stuck with the school not just because of the students but because of an incredibly supportive staff, as well. “I feel like when I drop them off that I’m leaving them with friends,” said Giroux.

Audio/video teacher Dan Boisvert spoke of the caliber of arts instructors at the school. “We are all working professionals,” he said. Boisvert emphasized staff dedication, resulting in a willingness to work with kids outside of normal school hours to help them get the most from their high school experience. “But that wouldn’t be possible without the commitment that we have from our students,” he said.

Boisvert emphasized the multidisciplinary approach at the school, whereby students are encouraged to work on projects that transcend different curriculums as well as the arts. English teacher Stacy Vocasek also emphasized this focus. Students are given opportunities to demonstrate their mastery of a subject outside of the typical pencil and paper assessments, she said.

Students are given plenty of time to focus on their creative outlet of choice. At the same time, emphasized Principal Tracy Pelletier, the students are provided with academic instruction that conforms to Connecticut Department of Education guidelines. In fact, added Pelletier, a current senior at the school was recently accepted into a very prestigious college. “You don’t need to worry about the quality of the instruction they’re being offered in the standard curriculum,” she said.

A.C.T. is an arts magnet high school administered by EASTCONN. The school is housed on Main Street in Willimantic, in the restored Capitol Theater. The theater, originally opened in 1926, hosted both movies and live vaudeville acts during its long tenure in downtown Willimantic. The building was closed in the early 1970s, and was completely renovated to accommodate the school. The original marquee sign now adorns the lobby.

The application deadline for the 2013-14 school year is Feb. 1, 2013. For more information go to or contact 860-465-5636.

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