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'Arts are so important': Hollywood casting director visits Sumner High School

School leaders are looking to build specialized arts programs to increase enrollment and brought in Leah Daniels Butler to help students.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Public Schools approved a proposal to keep Sumner High School open if enrollment increases by 10% each year over three years.

School leaders plan to do that by creating a specialized arts program that isn't offered at other schools.

With special guests like Hollywood casting director Leah Daniels Butler dropping by, they believe they're on the right track.

Sumner High School students rehearsed lines for a performance that mirrors the reality of their historic school at risk of closing.

"It's important to increase enrollment at Sumner High School in order to fill the building to the capacity that it needs to be at and to garner them out of resources that Sumner really needs to be put back onto the level of the institution that it once was in the region," Head Drama Teacher Adam Flores said.

Adam Flores works double time at the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and as the head teacher for Sumner High's drama program. 

He's part of the plan to attract more students by creating specialized arts elective courses.

"Right now we have dance, visual arts, fine arts, we have music, and then we have drama as a pathway that's really because that's where our partnerships were," Flores said.

They brought in Hollywood casting director Leah Daniels Butler, known for her work on the Academy Award-winning film "Precious" and the hit TV show "Empire" to hear the Sumner drama students rehearse.

"Arts are so important to have in schools because it's something that's being lost," Butler said. "Studies have shown that kids who have music programs and art programs and all sorts of programs, they're just more well-rounded."

Butler was in town to explore ways to bring more film productions to St. Louis. She spent an hour with students at Sumner to share all the different paths the arts have to offer.

"Whatever help I can be a part of to help, again, facilitate that, and just knowing that these kids can then go on in life and pursue their dreams and just know that there's something other than anything else out there," Butler said.

Butler and her husband Henry Butler are exploring cities to film TV shows and movies for the production company Urbanflix.

Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed will present Leah Daniels Butler with a proclamation for her work.

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