Jim "Rusty" Gorgans began working with students at Lockhart Middle School in 1993. He wanted to give the at-risk children an opportunity to belong to a club. In 1994, his program was given a name, Clowns R Us. He has volunteered countless hours to this much needed program.
In Orlando, FL, there was a need to improve self-esteem, grades, attitude towards school, attendance and behavior of at-risk students in Lockhart Middle School. At Lockhart there were many extracurricular activities. However, none of them were targeted at, or even appropriate for, the at-risk kids that constitute such a large portion of the population.
Clowns R Us was formulated by Barbara Chasnov in cooperation with AT&T and BellSouth. This program is a combination of unique motivational learning activities presented by AT&T Pioneer clowns, led by Jim Gorgans, and supported by volunteers at the school.
Each student in the Clowns R Us program chooses what "type" of clown to be according to their true personality, with the help of Clown Pioneers. The students are then taught how to apply their make-up correctly and are given a costume and all other needed items. Clowns R Us students attend seminars on the history of clowning, character development, make -up application, wardrobe, props, skits, parade ability, balloon sculpture, face painting and magic. Each year there are thirty openings for clowns to enter the world of volunteerism.
The Clowns R Us group participates in a variety of activities which increase and vary from year to year. Some of these are: parades, Earth Day celebrations, visits to nursing homes and day cares, back-to-school fairs, school carnivals, PTA events, orientations, and charity drives.
This program has proven to be wonderfully successful. The first year discipline referrals were reduced 55% overall and 72% among the students who remained active in the clown program. Academic performance and grades were also improved in the members. None of the students' grades fell and 13 students improved their grades, by one or more letter-grade. In student, teacher and parent surveys done both before and after program involvement, students scored significantly higher in a number of areas including: self-concept, motivation, attitude about school and ability to get along with peers and others.