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Kudos & Testimonials


FROM THE STAR ARCHIVES:  Excerpt from Morgan Hill Times Article


The highly successful program was the brainchild of Marilyn Abad Cardinalli. In her college years, Marilyn worked the "Hot Feet Day Camps" in San Jose. When she took a job as theater director at Gavilan College in 1974, it was only natural that she thought it would be fun to start a summer theater camp for children who had few opportunities to experience the arts. At first, public school kids came to Gavilan as audiences who enjoyed performances by Marilyn's students. At the same time, Marilyn was looking for opportunities to provide leadership training as well as jobs for her students. Using the "one-room schoolhouse concept," Marilyn developed the STAR program, giving college age leaders the opportunity to hone their skills while giving back to children. The program allowed children to work together learning about the magic of theater. As Marilyn would say, "It is magic to see children, shy and unsure at the beginning, confidently walk, dance, sing and act on stage with pride and enthusiasm."


- Carol F. Harris, Columnist | Miss Carol was also STAR's Musical Director for several years.

"Teaching at STAR taught me that I could be a good teacher, employee and person. My summer at STAR changed my life for the better. It taught me more about being focused and driven than anything I had ever done before. The amount of attention STAR demanded of me as a leader taught me a whole new sense of responsibility I never knew existed before that. I can honestly say that without working for STAR, I would have never developed some of my greatest work values, such as, being on time, putting 100% of myself into my work and truly performing when necessary."

- Anonymous Former STAR Leader

"Every summer I am amazed by how talented STAR participants are. It is amazing to see a group of young actors take the stage in four short weeks. This is a challenge that professional actors rarely take on. But it is even more amazing to watch these young actors work together as a team. It is this camaraderie, as well as, the student's talent that makes every child shine bright on stage!" - 2009


"My decision to become a teacher was hugely informed by my experience working with children at STAR. When I began to work at STAR I began to realize why the arts are so vital to a child’s education. When I got my teaching credential, I choose to go to UC Berkeley because their credential program had a large focus on the importance of making space for arts in the classroom. My experience working at STAR continues to inform how I teach in my classroom and my dedication to providing children with opportunities to grow and act creatively."


- Miss Janine Mortan

Former STAR Kid, STAR Leader, and STAR Program Coordinator

Currently serving as Secretary, STAR Arts Education Board of Directors

STAR Leader Dance 2008

"I would not be the passionate, joyful artist I am today if I didn't have STAR to look forward to every summer as a kid. I recently graduated from California College of the Arts and am working towards a career in arts administration. I live and breathe the arts. STAR showed me how to be myself, how to make friends and express my emotions in creative ways. STAR was the only option for creative youth in Gilroy when I was a kid and probably still is today."


- Annonymous Former STAR Leader 2013

"My name is Kate Ferrant Richbourg and I was a STAR leader for the first four years of the STAR program under the wonderful direction of Marilyn Abad-Cardinalli. There are so many, many reasons that I feel that the STAR program should be continued but I would like to address two of them here.


1. It set me on my career path.  In the summer of 1985 I was a 19 year old Gavilan College Student. I did not have much job experience and very little experience working with children and teaching. I was enrolled in the drama program at Gavilan and Marilyn opened up the opportunity to become STAR leaders to her students. I learned so much that summer. (And in subsequent summers.) From pre-planning all of the sessions, brainstorming with peers, learning responsibility for my actions, to teaching the arts to children and seeing the tangible results from my work as those children moved through the program, STAR was my training ground. I wrote skits and short plays, learned to think on the fly, found the ability to troubleshoot and problem solve and perfected the ability to speak front of a group of adults and children. I cherish my years as a Gavlian student, but my years as a STAR leader gave me life skills that I use to this very day in my career as a writer, instructor and TV personality in the Handcrafting Industry.


2. The Theater Experience.  Many of the kids that I worked with in my years as a STAR instructor did not have any experience either on stage or off in the theater world. Of course there were "show kids" who were outgoing and experienced, but my most poignant memories are those of kids who were so shy on the first day of STAR, evolve, grow and learn to shine by the end. There is a feeling of togetherness that develops over the course of the program that brings kids out of their shell and helps them find a niche in the theater and highlights their skills that they did not know they had. STAR is an amazing program and to have it abolished would truly be a loss to the South Bay community.


Please, please consider continuing STAR so it can serve children (and adults) for years to come."


- Kate Ferrant Richbourg, Jewlery Educator

Marie Simoni | STAR Kid: Mary Poppins in 1998 to Willy Wonka in 2005) and STAR Leader: Grease in 2009, Pirates of Penzance Jr. in 2010, and Oliver! in 2011


“The most important thing that I could give a child is the gift of self-confidence.  If a child has confidence then they will feel that they have the power to do anything.  Self-confidence is the key to doing well in any aspect of life.  A child needs a strong sense of self-worth in order for them to fully develop.  The STAR Program not only taught me this very important lesson, but it continues to teach other kids this with each proceeding summer.  I believe in this program and I continue to come back to ensure that it touches the lives of other children like it did mine.  If I could teach every child I meet that they have self-worth and that they deserve to be heard, then I would be happy.”

"As a child, STAR helped me come out of my shell, make friends, and gain confidence. STAR also provided me with strong role models in the STAR leaders. Because of the presence of these intelligent, strong, and talented adults, I wanted to be a leader as well, not just a STAR leader, but a leader in general. As a leader in STAR, I have had to show strong leadership skills and business skills. I have even had to research California State Standards to create lesson plans for STAR. I have seen firsthand how STAR has influenced the lives of children. Disruptive children have learned respect, shy children have learned confidence, and children who do not fit in have found friends and a community. STAR has inspired me to be an arts educator."

- Miss Claire Wilms

Former STAR Kid, STAR Leader, and STAR Program Coordinator

"I just wanted to let you know that I took my son and his friend to the production on Saturday.  It was a marvelous play.  We loved the singing, music, acting, sets, and all.  I can see that you put your heart and soul into STAR, and it is truly amazing how much you have been able to accomplish.  I also loved seeing my students, Katie [Hipol] and Kim [Apuzzo], up there.  I felt so proud of them, of you, and of the whole STAR team."

- Scott Sandler

English Instructor

Gavilan College

This ART IS ESSENTIAL interview is an oldie, but a goodie. This video excerpt features STAR 2008 leaders who were once STAR kids who returned summer-after-summer to participate in STAR.  Essentially, these former STAR kids grew up in the STAR Program!  The STAR Gilroy 2008 production was SEUSSICAL JR.  


Interviewees (left to right):

Miss Janine Mortan - Miss Janine served as our former Program Coordinator for several years and she now serves on the STAR Arts Education Board of Directors.  She often comes back to volunteer to make costumes.

Mr. Dale Keeler - Mr Dale's family have been strong supporters of the arts in Gilroy for many years.

Mr. Greg Smith - As the STAR Music Director, Mr. Greg has made our STAR kids sound amazing!  He also composes and performs his own music.

Miss Katie Hipol, STAR Artistic Director - Miss Katie has directed the the last several STAR Gilroy productions and is the Program Coordinator for the STAR San Juan Bautista program.


Interviewed by Fran Lozano, Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Gavilan College, has always been a strong advocate for the STAR Program.

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