CYT: Inspiring Kids in the Arts

Dress rehearsal for upcoming production of Peter Pan Jr. at the Sherwood Center for the Arts.
Dress rehearsal for upcoming production of Peter Pan Jr. at the Sherwood Center for the Arts.
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The arts play an important role in the lives of our kids. Like team sports, they bring people together and build community. The arts also give kids a creative outlet for self-expression. This is why organizations like Christian Youth Theater (CYT) play a pivotal role in the lives of students and in our community.

CYT is a dynamic, multi-faceted program with many offerings. The after school program, CYT@School, is hosted weekly at Horizon Christian School in Tualatin in ten weekly installments. The tenth and final weekly session culminates in a thirty minute, condensed production version of a larger show. Their variety of evening classes engage students from all over Portland, beginning at age five, in improv, acting, singing and dance. Their large main stage productions give kids the opportunity to perform in a full scale, professional environment, taking students to the next level in their abilities. CYT even has summer camps!

The Portland-Vancouver chapter of CYT was co-founded in 2013 by Artistic Director, Theresa VanWetten and her husband, Ray VanWetten. “We want to make sure everyone feels valued coming through the program in addition to keeping the quality of the art high,” says Theresa. Not only does she keep CYT on mission, but Theresa lends her expertise as a choreographer and dance teacher and has choreographed more than nineteen productions. Theresa’s fingerprints can be found in many areas of production. Theresa is mom to nine children of her own, which is how she got connected with CYT many years ago. Several of her children found their place in the arts through CYT as students. Now, her twenty-year-old daughter, Segie, is following in her mom’s dance steps.

Segie has been doing choreography for the upcoming production of Peter Pan, while Theresa has been doing costumes. What’s even more touching about this family working side by side is their family’s unique and touching story. Segie was adopted at age ten from Ethiopia. She didn’t speak English. She has flourished in her loving home environment, as well as in the artistic world. Segie has also been teaching a tap class for CYT, and has quickly become a very popular teacher. Theresa adds, “CYT is excited to welcome everyone into our family. If people are interested in getting kids involved in theater, CYT is a place to consider.”

CYT has created a place of belonging. While Horizon Christian School hosts the classes, it’s open to students from all over the Portland metro area. All are welcome at CYT. It is a great entry point for students to try their hand at the arts. It’s a safe place for parents to send their kids who love to dance, act and sing. This is a place where students not only grow in their talent and get opportunity, but it creates camaraderie. They learn to work as a team because all roles are important. They build relationships with like-minded peers with the same interests.

CYT is so much more than introducing kids to the performing arts. It’s about building confidence in students. Their confidence grows along with their abilities as they’re given opportunities. Kids are encouraged every time they enter a class or rehearsal by caring instructors, like Steve Wilent. Steve is an actor, writer and director in his own right. He devotes his time and talent to encouraging these young stars in the making. He teaches the after school program as well as an acting class. The teacher adds, “Young children at play normally have this self-conscious-less ability to just be and not filter thoughts and actions. It’s only after we get a little older and take on our roles as adults that we forget the freedom that is found in joyous creative play.”

Jeff Lippert is not only Managing Director for CYT, but is father to two budding talented thespians who found their tribe in CYT. “CYT has been a tremendous blessing for our family. It’s a national organization with a culture of acceptance and encouragement that has helped elevate the self-confidence of our kids. Being part of a production, like Peter Pan Jr, is an experience that my family will have for the rest of our lives. I haven’t seen any other program positively impact kids and their parents like CYT. It has given our family the unique opportunity to work side by side, as families in community with each other, developing friendships and experiences unlike anything else,” says the proud dad and Managing Director.

Want to find out more about this awesome team and programs CYT has to offer? Check out Or better yet, come check out their upcoming production of Peter Pan. Come watch students portray this classic play, and be inspired by their courage, creativity, teamwork and talent. Perhaps taking your child to see this show will not only spark their interest in the arts, but awaken those hidden dreams and talents of your own.

Fridays, March 8 & 15 at 7 p.m.
Saturdays, March 9 & 16 at 2 & 7 p.m.
Sherwood Center for the Arts
22689 SW Pine Street
Sherwood, OR 97140
To Purchase tickets go to: