Active senior connects youth with arts
By Amy Sorter
When James Rosenberg, 71, spearheaded an outing to the Texas Ballet’s performance of “Cinderella” in October 2010, his goal was to provide a different experience to underprivileged children living in South Oak Cliff. A trip to the Winspear Opera House in Dallas filled that bill.
“I wanted to do something unique for these children who were not in the mainstream of life,” Rosenberg said. “That was the plan.”
That initial outing was so successful that Rosenberg spearheaded another trip just two months later. This one involved taking 170 youngsters, plus 50 active-duty veterans and their families, to four performances of the Texas Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”
Those experiences for underserved children continue to this day as part of the Arts & Education 4 DFW Youths, a 501(c)(3) organization. The 4 DFW Youths program, founded and run by Rosenberg, partners with other community organizations involved with children in lower-income neighborhoods, and underwrites visits to arts, entertainment and education venues throughout the Metroplex.
“It gives the children experience outside of their communities,” Cedar Springs Boys & Girls Club Director Sophia Cordova said. “ It helps them learn how to interact in social settings. Some of these kids haven’t been outside their four-block radius of home and school — ever.”
Rosenberg battles loss
Rosenberg is no stranger to life’s difficult lessons.
Born in San Antonio, the real estate broker and manager did well in his chosen field, until he was hit by a drunken driver. That event roadblocked his life. Rosenberg began an ongoing battle with depression and came close to being homeless. His support system narrowed following the loss of his parents. Then, he lost his retirement savings during the 2007-2009 recession.
Rosenberg credits his involvement with Congregation Nishmat Am in Plano, and its leader, Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen, for helping him when he needed it most. He took on small consulting jobs, establishing a stable source of income.
Recognizing a need
Finding help during struggle is a cause that resonates with Rosenberg. As an adult, he thought of how hard this must be for kids and their families.
“There were a lot of kids who were suffering from the economic chaos,” Rosenberg said. “I wanted to do something for them, something different.”
As a fan of the performing and visual arts, Rosenberg believed that a live theatrical experience is incomparable to modern-day television. “I wasn’t sure what they would think of a theater without a moving screen,” Rosenberg said. “Their eyes were as large as silver dollars. They loved the costuming, the music, everything about it.”
Through those experiences, Rosenberg understood the arts provided a unique, personal experience for underserved youth.
Rosenberg’s organization works with groups throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. These groups organize the trips and provide the chaperones that bring children to events. In addition to ballet and theater, the children have visited the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and, one year, enjoyed the Marvel Universe Live event at the American Airlines Center.
The American Airlines Center also provided tickets for members of the 4 DFW Youths to a Dallas Mavericks’ game.
Several adults, too, have enjoyed activities sponsored by 4 DFW Youths.
In addition to their being a great reward for the kids, Cordova indicated that the trips are invaluable when it comes to teaching life lessons.
“It teaches them how to react in social settings,” Cordova said. “We let them know there is certain etiquette and behavior expected from them in these situations.”
Finally, exposing children to the arts helps them open up and try new things. Cordova tells the story of one of very shy girl who attended one of the shows underwritten by 4 DFW Youths. The following summer, she performed in a Boys & Girls Club talent show.
The children pay nothing for attendance, while adults might be charged a nominal fee. 4 DFW Youths funds programs through private donations, as well as receiving donations from Walmart, Kohl’s, Staples and Target.
Growth in opportunity
Rosenberg’s 4 DFW Youths added a communications director and an events coordinator, but still seeks more volunteers to help with its growth in programming. He is currently seeking a photographer, IT assistant, grants writer and administrative support to help out.
Rosenberg is affiliated with Kehillat Chaverim in North Dallas. As a Jew, his focus on l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation, is especially important.
Rosenberg believes that his organization, along with other community groups, is chipping away at a greater cause of helping underserved youths find their way out of generational poverty.
Overall, Arts & Education 4 DFW Youths provides the children with fun outings and important life lessons. Whenever Rosenberg reaches out to Boys & Girls Club’s Cordova for a proposed trip, she’s on board.
“Every time his name pops up on my caller ID,” she said, “I tell him ‘Yes, I’ll be there.’”
For more information about Arts & Education 4 DFW Youths, email james.rosenberg@AandE4DFWyouths.org, or call 972-522-9947.