Spark Scholarship gives a John Glenn graduate the opportunity to shine

Earning a performing arts scholarship in high school helped Kaden Furtaw gain confidence for the college application process.

A year after he was awarded $1,000 through the Spark Artistic Mentorship Program, Furtaw is poised to attend Saginaw Valley State University while working part-time as a teacher’s aide in music classes teaching at the Bay City Academy.

Furtaw says the scholarship was key to his confidence when applying to colleges. He encourages others to take advantage of the opportunity.

While Korie Lee Blossey sang, Ryan VanDenBoom tap danced during the Downtown Shuffle Around on Sept. 12..The Spark scholarship, which began in 2020, holds its third annual tap dancing fundraiser on Sat., Aug. 27. The 2022 Downtown Shuffle Around fundraising event takes place outside Populace Coffee, 810 Saginaw St. in Downtown Bay City. Ryan VanDenBoom, one of the founders of the scholarship program who graduated from Bay City Central High School and has performed on Broadway, leads the classes. Registrations are requested.

The fundraiser goes toward the unique scholarship that offers training in the performing arts to Black, Indigenous, and students of color in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Furtaw, who was one of two 2021-22 recipients, chose monologue, dance, and vocal training. The other 2021-22 recipient was Alexus Yorch.

“It was an amazing process. Really fun. I learned a ton of things from it,” Furtaw says.

Kaden Furtaw recently played Troy Bolton in a performance of "High School Musical" at the Midland Center for the Arts (Photo courtesy of the Midland Center for the Arts)In monologue training, he learned how to effectively introduce himself, picking up pointers on etiquette and how to get the audience’s attention. The lessons also focused the importance of not rushing and maintaining eye contact.

As a veteran of local performances, Furtaw knew his dance skills needed help. He elected to study dance next.

“I wasn’t a dancer,” Furtaw says. “I knew nothing about dance. I didn’t know any of the terms. I struggled with a lot of it.”

In auditions, when asked to perform a specific move, Furtaw would pause to see what the others did and then mimic their movements. That’s no longer a problem.

“After I had the dance training, I can definitely say that I feel comfortable going into an audition and knowing the terms that they people tell me to do,” Furtaw says. “It was just such a good learning experience for that.”

Graphic courtesy of the Spark Artistic Mentorship Program Finally, he took vocal lessons from Dr. Matt Travis, a Bay City native and Senior Director of Artistic Planning at the Midland Center for the Arts. Travis lead the lessons, but also gave Furtaw help with shows he was in during the last year and with college auditions.

The help paid off. Later this month, Furtaw will begin studying education and theater at SVSU. He’ll also work as a teaching aide and assistant director for shows at the Bay City Academy. He’s also Assistant Stage Manger for “Rent,” which has its last performances this weekend. Tickets are available online.

Furtaw is confident that he’ll be involved in theater for the rest of his life.

"I don’t care what I’m doing, where I’m at, or how long it takes. At the end of the day, if I am around or in the theater somehow, that would make me happy.”

His experience was so positive that when his sister, Jecara Williams, asked him if she should apply for the 2022-23 program, he was happy to encourage her.

On Sat., Aug. 27, VanDenBoom will demonstrate classic steps in ways that dancers of all skill levels can understand. (Photo Credit: Ben Tierney)“I said ‘Jecara, it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I learned so much, made so many good connections, and they’re just great people as well. I said yeah, Jecara, just go for it.’ “

Jecara, who starts eighth grade this fall at the Bay City Academy, is one of four recipients of the 2022-23 scholarship. The other recipients are: Deacon Hayward, Myah Shelton, and Zoe Whitlock.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at