Fourth year of Kids Do It All theater camp in Todos Santos brings largest student participation yet

The fourth annual Kids Do It All theatre program at the Colorado State University Todos Santos Center brought together the largest participation yet – more than 50 children from Todos Santos and Colorado.

The CSU student-led effort in Todos Santos is an adaptation of a long-standing and popular music-theatre program of the CSU School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. The Todos Santos version of the program creates a bilingual and bicultural experience for kids ages 7-13, and is held each summer at the university’s international extension campus for research, teaching, and engagement in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

“CSU is very lucky to have an international campus in Todos Santos, Mexico. With our connection to this community and this campus, we are able to give students a multi-cultural experience that they might not get within the walls of the CSU Fort Collins campus,” said Debbie Swann, CSU faculty advisor for the Kids Do It All program.

Although slightly intimidated by the prospect, senior Koby Adams embraced the opportunity to participate as a counselor because of his love of kids and travel. “Sure, I’ve been traveling to different countries before, but they’ve all been for vacation,” said Adams, a double major in Theatre Performance and Journalism and Media Communication. “I knew this experience was going to really challenge me by being thrown into a foreign community [with] a different language and vast cultural differences as well.”

During the weeklong camp, the counselors and staff helped kids write, perform, and design their own play. “We made plays that the kids were excited about. They wrote them, acted in them, helped design them, and performed them, all with our guidance and support,” Swann said.

Swann also noted that many of the kids in Mexico do not speak English and several of the counselors spoke minimal Spanish, but it did not stop communication between all the program participants. “Many believe that it takes communication to make art, and while that may be true, communication does not have to equal language. That’s why our experiences with KDIA in Todos Santos are so valuable,” explains Swann.

Danielle Chenoweth, a Colorado parent, said she saw that value first-hand in her own children, who participated in the program.

“KDIA in Todos Santos was a wonderful experience for our family,” Chenoweth said. “Our kids had the opportunity to play and learn while making new friends and experiencing another culture. It was amazing to watch them interact in both Spanish and English. The staff and students from CSU made the camp fun and memorable!”

Local Appreciation for the Todos Santos Center

In years past, counselors have noted the local appreciation for the camp, and it was reiterated this summer. For Adams, it was a significant moment when, as the counselors were dining in town, the restaurant owner told the group about how much fun his kid was having at camp. “He thanked each of us and told us how thankful they were that the children of the community could be exposed to theatre and the arts,” said Adams, recounting the interaction. “It really validated why we were there, and made me realize that we were really making a positive impact on the community. It was very humbling.”

In the end, it was as Adams hoped it would be – not about the cultural nuances and language barriers, but about the kids, whom he describes as welcoming and hilarious. “They were very patient with me not knowing much Spanish, and we all had so much fun each day at camp,” remembers Adams. “We came up with secret handshakes and inside jokes, and when we weren’t rehearsing their play, we were laughing and playing the funniest games.”

As tempura-painted props finished drying and the children ran their lines one last time with nervous giggles, the week came to a satisfactory conclusion with performances for parents and locals. “Experiences like this also illustrate the importance of cooperation, perseverance, and empathy. We had to work harder to achieve understanding, which makes it that much more valuable when we accomplished it,” said Swann.

Surely, Adams spoke for the group when he said “I’ll never forget my time in Todos Santos; I will hold those memories very close to my heart.”

Jennifer Clary and Tiana Nelson contributed to this story.

About the CSU Todos Santos Center

The Colorado State University Todos Santos Center is the university’s first international location and is core to CSU’s mission of teaching, research, service and outreach.

The Center provides opportunities for CSU students and Baja California Sur residents to collaborate with local partners and businesses to identify needs, conduct research and produce impactful outcomes.

CSU’s vision in Todos Santos is to cultivate generations of global citizens and to be a part of creating thriving communities through collaboration, experience and exchange of knowledge in areas such as agriculture, infectious disease, elementary education, environmental and social sustainability, wildlife ecology, veterinary medicine and public health.