Giving back to the community is important within the University of Central Arkansas community, and one alumna takes this belief system to heart.
After graduating in 1986, Jennifer Moore came back to UCA in 1994 to teach in the Department of Occupational Therapy and became chair of the department in 2015. Within a few years of her employment at UCA, she identified a way to bridge her professional knowledge with her work with students and give back to the community.
In 1997, Moore began co-directing a program called Acting Creates Therapeutic Success (ACTS). This program provides opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to participate in the performing arts.
“The reason I do it is I just think everybody ought to have the opportunity to fully participate in their community to do the things they want to be able to do,” she said.
Starting in the spring each year, Moore and roughly 20 occupational therapy students meet weekly with 60 of these individuals from the Conway community to create and perform a theatrical piece. The performers are involved in all aspects of the production of the play, from costumes and set design to theme and character development.
Moore sees the interaction between the university community and performers as entertaining but also uplifting.
“There are no scripts or anything like that. We come up with the theme, and the performers take it over and develop the storyline,” Moore said. “So if the setting happens to be a Western, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Elvis won’t make an appearance. It can be whatever they want it to be.”
Then in the fall, performers and volunteers begin play rehearsals, and the show is held in November at Reynolds Performance Hall for about 400 in attendance. Moore praised the lighting and sound team at Reynolds for helping to make the play successful.
“I cannot say enough about them; they are now used to working with individuals who have disabilities,” Moore said. “They recognize that since we don’t have a script, our performers may or may not say when they are finished, so they are in tune with what may or may not happen, and they help us help them perform to the best of their ability.”
While Moore has enjoyed her time at UCA mentoring, teaching and advising, she accepted a position as the founding chair of the occupational therapy program at Arkansas Colleges of Health Education in Fort Smith. Her new role started Nov. 1.