National Development Day: Innovating Development, Building Community

Published by Dan Kelly

On April 6 at 5pm, All Stars Project hosted the inaugural National Development Day, which culminated with over 200 alumni, staff, donors, corporate champions, volunteers and many new faces in the All Stars community coming together online for a video conference centered around virtual development!

With an informal name of “Happy (Development) Hour,” the attendees – who came from virtually everywhere around the country – were welcomed by hosts Antoine Joyce (VP, City Leader, ASP of Dallas) and Jenny Zak (VP, Development) who shared anecdotes and updates of how All Stars is innovating development in our current climate. The event kicked off with a “Virtual Talent Show” as rapper K-Matic from Dallas and duo Teaneva from Dallas treated the participants to an inspired, original rap and gorgeous harmonies from the youth performers. New Jersey Development School for Youth student Courtney Lavell then provided a touching statement, where she said:

“It has been great to see my Development School for Youth ensemble virtually as the program continues to provide ways for us to keep developing. I’m realizing that development isn’t limited to being at the All Stars, development and performance can be tapped into everywhere and anywhere.”

DSY Student Courtney Lavell

It wouldn’t have been an All Stars event without people “getting out of their comfort zones.” The conference featured breakout rooms which were effective at All Stars’ core value of building community and radical inclusion. These rooms contained 5-7 people – assembled at random – and provided a means to meet each other, discuss where they are, and how they are developing while distancing. A Chicago supporter shared that he has been homebound sick with the COVID-19 virus and has felt disconnected, and how much it meant to him to be able to support our young people – and be part of our community – for the video conference. All Stars alumnus and member of the Alumni Leadership Council Osiris Jackson said this:

“I was blessed to be grouped with a wide range of people who have vastly different relationships with the All Stars. We all agreed that an amazing quality of the ASP is the judgement-free space it creates for expression and performance.”

In true All Stars fashion, Antoine Joyce brought out his DJ equipment and finished out the call with an impromptu dance party! With nearly all of the 200 attendees sharing their dance moves virtually, it’s was clear that people are longing for connectedness and development during this time of sheltering-at-home. All Stars has always been at the forefront of building community with people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life – and now we are leading this virtually. NY Board Member Ken Meyerson had this to say:

“I AM SO IMPRESSED HOW YOU GUYS ARE USING ZOOM TO CONTINUE THE MISSION!!!! Great job All Stars. Really impressive how fast you have pivoted in this crazy bizarre and trying time.” 

Off of the success of the event, we have created two new ways for our community to connect. One is to accept the #DevelopWhileDistancing social media challenge! Post a picture or video of you doing your favorite developmental activity (cooking, crafting, doing virtual happy hours with friends and family, etc.) during your “shelter-at-home” and tag five friends to join the challenge!

Also, you can join us for our Improv Hangouts on Fridays at 5pm where our talented staff leads participants through improv activities virtually. Have fun, meet some new people, and stretch out your performance muscles. Anyone can join, and no experience is necessary, just a willingness to participate! Click here to sign up.

National Development Day was a great success and a milestone for development and human innovation through All Stars’ performance-based, community-building programs and method. Perhaps Eric Marcelino, a DSY alumnus and member of the Alumni Leadership Council summed it up best:

“Great event. Couldn’t have gone any better than this. Could feel the love for the programs and each other. This is what setting the standard means when speaking about humanity. Breaking down barriers and overcoming obstacles is what it’s about. Grateful to be part of it all.”

We are grateful for our amazing community of supporters, partners, volunteers, staff and donors who made. See you at next year’s National Development Day!