Interest in Performing Started Early

AZVA Brooklyn Yates

Originally published in the Pinal Central – August 17, 2018

FLORENCE — Brooklyn Yates’ interest in theatre goes way back. Her family has often told her about the time when she was 3 and walked right up on stage at Queen Creek Performing Arts Center.

“Ever since then, I thought the stage was pretty cool.”

Only about five years later she was back, but this time no one had to go get her. She belonged there, singing and dancing in “Aristocats Kids.” She has remained active in Queen Creek theatre, also appearing in “Lion King Jr.”; as a monkey in “Jungle Book Kids”; as a delinquent in “Pinocchio”; and as Little Red Riding Hood in “Shrek the Musical.”

“I like all of it,” Brooklyn, now 13, says of the theatre. “I like helping with the props and sets, and I like helping out the adults with some of the littler kids.” She’s what’s known as a “kid wrangler,” rounding up the younger actors and helping them take their places. “And I also love the acting, too.”

Her favorite part of it all is “probably making new friends there, because we all have the same interests. We love the singing, the dancing, the acting, all of it. All the sets.” She’ll soon be helping with props and sets in “Alice in Wonderland Jr.,” which will be performed Nov. 16-19.

Brooklyn also recently made time to join the Naval Sea Cadets. The program, usually one weekend per month, includes physical fitness, leadership skills, respect and teamwork. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s still pretty fun.” Like performing on stage, it was also something else she’d had her eye on for a while before she could join.

“My brother was doing it at my age.” She also has an older sister who was in Coast Guard, and Brooklyn also wants to join the Coast Guard someday.

In addition to her brother, Brandon, and sister, Shelby, the family includes her mother, Cathi, and father, Mike. The family lives in Magic Ranch between Florence and San Tan Valley.

Brooklyn fits in her challenging extracurriculars with classes in Arizona Virtual Academy online school, where she’s in 8th grade. Her mother said when she’s in rehearsals four nights a week before a show, it would be difficult on a regular school schedule with homework every night. “You can’t keep up with your homework, get up every morning and go to school and do that at that age,” Cathi Yates said.

Cathi is amused when people wonder aloud if Brooklyn’s social development is stunted in online school. “Do you know how many places I have to run this child?” she said. Even in online school, Brooklyn said she interacts with teachers and other students.

“Even though it’s on the computer, there are many kids from across the whole state. There are a couple of kids from New Mexico who are in my classes. It’s like 200 kids in one virtual class.”

Online school isn’t all cursors, toolbars, icons and widgets. Students get actual old-fashioned textbooks for subjects like math, science and history, Brooklyn said. Her class will also read “Lord of the Flies” this year.

She gets away from the computer during visits to the Queen Creek Blended Learning Center. “Kids from third grade to twelfth grade can go there, do their work, make friends and also get help from our secondary learning coaches,” Brooklyn said. Cathi added it’s a chance for Brooklyn to interact with peers and teachers, see friends and participate in clubs.

Brooklyn has been studying with AZVA for three years now and says her grades are just as good or better than when she attended regular public school.

“Because there’s not a lot of people distracting me when I’m home. … In normal school, I would get in trouble a lot because people would talk to me.”

Her mother added it’s hard for a student to fall behind with no one noticing at AZVA:

“There are a lot of options for help. She has me, I’m her primary learning coach. She has a secondary learning coach at the school she goes to. She has the teacher during the class, and they have ‘help lab’ she can go to. And if there’s any reason she’s falling behind, she can study in a small group. There are so many options, there’s no reason to have bad grades. There’s so much help available.”

Attendance is expected, just like regular school. If Brooklyn skips a required class, her mother gets an email.

The school has spring and fall breaks, like a regular school, and field trips. Last year there were several, Brooklyn said. “Two of my favorite ones were the Phoenix Zoo and the Renaissance Festival.”

Brooklyn finishes school each day done around 1 p.m., or sometimes 2, because she has a 1 p.m. class two days a week. She eats lunch during class.

She gets up at 5:30 a.m. if she’s going to the learning center. If she’s studying at home she gets up at 6 and gets ready for school much like students anywhere else would. “But I wouldn’t put on shoes, obviously,” she added with a laugh.

To learn more about Arizona Virtual Academy, visit

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