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South Jordan Journal

Up With Kids finding creative ways to connect with young thespians

Apr 22, 2021 11:13AM ● By Rachel Aubrey

Jordan Ridge Elementary fifth grader Aven Lee dresses in a homemade costume and rehearses lines for the production of "The Greatest Showman" with his new friends in the Upper class of the program Up With Kids. (Photo by Jennifer Lee.)

By Rachel Aubrey | [email protected]

During the past year, with the pandemic and all the uncertainty surrounding it, one thing that was for certain was people couldn’t connect the way they once could—working from home, school lessons done virtually and the suspension of a lot of extracurricular activities. 

One young South Jordan resident has found a way to connect while trying out his hand at acting. Aven Lee has been participating in a virtual acting class called Up With Kids that started in Utah 35 years ago by an educator named Shauna Livingston, with the help of local parent, Nancy Scott.

Aven, a fifth grader at Jordan Ridge Elementary School, started the program in January and is able to participate and learn speaking lines with young people his age. The Up With Kids program is divided into three age groups: UpSwings-preschool-first grade, UpBeats-second-fourth grade and Upper Class- fifth grade and above. 

With school held virtually on Fridays throughout the Jordan School District, Aven has been able to log onto Zoom for 50 minutes each Friday afternoon and learn things such as characterization, improvisation, vocal intonation and memorization.

“I like the acting part, and I’ve made friends with the kids in my class,” Aven said.

Beginning in January, Aven and his new friends were assigned roles for the production of the box-office hit, “The Greatest Showman.” Each student was given a set of lines that he or she was responsible for memorizing. The young actors spent March and April filming themselves saying their lines within their scenes and doing their musical scenes as well. The production will wrap up in May.

According to Aven’s teacher, Up With Kids Director Mallory Bringhurst, every child gets a chance to act and be a star without the stress or fear of auditioning.

“We believe in ‘all-star acting,’ where every child gets a speaking part and character to develop” Bringhurst said.

Aven’s mother, Jennifer Lee, said as a parent, she is pleased with Up With Kids and its format.

“I appreciate that this program is fun and not stressful,” she said. “We are casual people, and this has been great because it is light-hearted, and that’s what we need right now during this time.”

Prior to the pandemic, Up With Kids held weekly classes in person in various locations around Salt Lake Valley in singing, dancing and acting. For safety, all the physical locations were closed in March 2020, and the program was able to continue through working on Zoom. The directors and staff spent many hours learning to edit the footage so that each student could have a copy of the movie that they starred in to share with family and friends.

“Our virtual classes have been wonderful,” Bringhurst said. “Many parents are so grateful for the outlet for their children.”

Jennifer Lee admits that watching her son be a part of something that brings him joy, especially during COVID, has really been meaningful for her as a parent.

“I’ve noticed when he’s done with class, he’s so happy, and he just seems so cheerful,” she said.

For more information about Up With Kids, visit its website,