*RODA – A term used to describe the participatory circle in Capoeira, roda literally means “wheel” in Portuguese. All caps RODA is the name of SANCA’s newest youth program!
From dancing and poetry, to gymnastics and basketball, Monte Britt has always had a love for the arts and being active. So, when he saw an internship advertisement at the Rainier Boys & Girls Club for Circus RODA, a new teen program at SANCA, he thought, “Why not?”
Now, two years later, Monte is starting a career as a SANCA coach and youth mentor in the same program, sharing his love of flips with other students and encouraging them to break out of their shell and not to be afraid to try new things and be themselves.
Get to know Monte Britt!
In high school Monte experienced bullying from other teens and issues with his family because of his sexuality that made him feel like he didn’t fit in. For Monte, the arts and physical activities were an outlet where he could get away from those problems and find avenues of self-expression.
SANCA’s Social Circus RODA is a school-year long project for teens to learn circus and performance skills, and create an original show, while also learning life and job readiness skills like time management, collaboration, public speaking and presentation, and leadership.
At SANCA, Monte found a place where he could be himself, and the Circus RODA project gave him an opportunity to gain confidence, and discover a feeling of belonging.
Monte says, “It’s just amazing how you can just come into [SANCA] and be treated like you’re just normal …. You don’t have to be scared. It doesn’t matter what you are, who you are, what color you are.”
For Monte and the other teens in Circus RODA, it was an important discovery to realize that they didn’t feel pressured to do everything perfectly. Instead they were encouraged to get up and try again, or try something new.
“[At SANCA] you could do one bad flip and all you hear is the coach clapping and cheering you on and just saying OK we can do it again, or if you don’t want to do it again or feel comfortable, then we can do something different. They’re not going to pressure you to do something that you don’t want to do. And that’s why it kind of, I think, that’s what kept most kids here; because they feel like they didn’t have to be pressured to do something and it was always something they can look forward to doing.”
We know it kept Monte coming back! He came back for the second pilot version of the project, and quickly became one of the leaders of the group.
A favorite moment in the program for Monte was when the group got the idea for their showcase. “The Break Out” was RODA’s spring show in 2017, covering topics from mass incarceration and institutional racism to the Black Lives Matter movement and the participants’ dreams for their own future. Shortly before the show’s scheduled performance, police shot and killed local resident Charleena Lyles in her home. After the show, students and attendees participated in a community discussion to discuss the topics the show addressed.
“One of my friends she did the spoken word and it was basically based around shootings that had been happening, issues that are just happening politically. And it really touched me and most of the audience. Basically, it was it was the first program that touched me to do The Break Out and other kids also had the same vision because there was a lot that happened that year.”
For Monte, Circus RODA also became a means of personal transformation. By working hard in Circus RODA, Monte realized that “It takes a lot a lot of preparation. A lot.” He started to feel more comfortable with being social, and as the oldest teen, he discovered he wanted to be a good role model and leader to the other students in the program. Monte says he feels like he went from the “terrible two’s” as a high school student, to feeling like a leader as a youth mentor and coach.
Monte started working at SANCA in October as our newest coach at the beginning of the third year of the Circus RODA project, and he has a lot to share with the teens who are just getting started. “You don’t have to come in with confidence because once you start you’re going to want to do more and more, because you’re going to see this, and see that, and you’re going to be like I want to do that.”
“SANCA is inviting because they’re a big family. They just have a big heart,” says Monte. “One of the dreams I have had is about going in circus professionally … like acrobatics and back handsprings, flips, back flips, a double backflip in the air! Like just stuff like that. I have thought about that a few times and I’m like really thinking about pursuing it, and I really, really, really want to be a contortionist.”
You can support our Circus RODA students by making a gift during our end-of-year campaign. No amount is too small, every contribution can make a difference! You can give online or even set up a monthly giving plan for ongoing support.