Greensburg Chautauqua fuels student dreams

A Greensburg Community High School teacher’s lesson plans include allowing a measure of Hollywood to motivate his students toward a starring role in life.

Part of the idea of John Pratt’s Chautauqua, slated this year Thursday and Friday with one segment open to the public, is to spark dreams, especially in teens.

“I quickly saw a need to create inspiration for students because they’ve sometimes become inundated with things like testing and other requirements,” he said. “And I wanted to come up with something for them to get really excited about.”

The gathering consists of notable individuals sharing bits of their life stories and experiences with students and area residents.

A 7 p.m. Thursday session will feature 9/11 survivor John McLoughlin, part of the focus of the Oliver Stone film, “World Trade Center,” a panel of other guests and a meet-and-greet session. This year’s theme is “Based On a True Story,” with all segments open to the public for a $5 admission fee to cover speakers’ travel costs.

Years ago, Pratt had researched the Chautauqua movement, which brought entertainment and culture throughout the rural United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The assemblies were named after New York’s Chautauqua Lake where the first was held.

He considers veteran actor Ed Asner the highest-profile guest. Asner visited last year and wowed the audience not only with his remarks, but also his humility and approachability.

“Maybe the best thing I get out of this is hearing the feedback from students,” Pratt said. “And it’s also the idea that the community really sees the value of it.”

A grant from the Columbus Area Arts Council makes the event possible, according to organizers.

Big lives from the big screen

What: “Based On a True Story,” Greensburg High School Chautauqua, featuring a range of high-profile people whose stories have made the big screen in Hollywood films.

When: Thursday and Friday.

Where: The school auditorium, 1000 E. Central Ave., Greensburg.

Admission: $5 for the public.

Thursday highlights: Bobby Plump (highlighted in “Hoosiers”), 11:41 a.m.; Sister Helen Prejean (highlighted in “Dead Man Walking”), 12:55 p.m. Benjamin Mee (highlighted in “We Bought a Zoo”), 1:45 p.m.; John McLoughlin (highlighted in “World Trade Center”), 7 p.m.

Friday highlight: Daniel Diaz (highlighted in “McFarland USA”), 9:31 a.m.

Information: gchschautauqua.com.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.