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Kirkland 3Internships provide students with experiential learning, but BreAnna Kirkland has taken experiential learning a step further. Through opportunities she has had as a Clarion University student, the junior small business management major is living her dream of owning and operating a performing arts center.

This fall, Clarion Center for the Arts began accepting students, and already 150 people are learning about dance and theatre.

“It’s where my heart is,” Kirkland said. “We have our three E’s: educate, empower and engage.”

Kirkland, who started dancing at age 7, wants to educate as many children as possible with the arts; she wants to empower them to be proud of who they are and what they do, and to use their art to make a difference. She hopes that her center will engage the community to be involved in the arts.

kirkland-2“For me, the arts are meant to make a difference, and if they don’t, they’re being wasted,” she said.

Kirkland knew in 10th grade that she wanted to eventually own a performing arts center, but she didn’t think it would happen at the age of 20.

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education hosts an annual Student Business Plan Competition which provides students in the 14 state-owned universities a real-world opportunity to pitch their original business plans. First- through third-place winners receive $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500, respectively, to be used as seed money to assist in the startup of their proposed business ventures.

Kirkland entered the 2012-13 competition. She sought guidance in writing her required venture plan with financial projections from professionals at Clarion University’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Center and Small Business Development Center. Kirkland was among 21 semifinalists.

The judges ultimately selected other students’ plans to receive start-up funds, but Kirkland said she received very good feedback. She continued to work with the ELC and SBDC.

“I decided I would move forward until doors closed, but pieces kept falling into place,” Kirkland said. “In March I officially let the word out that yes, this is happening.”

Kirkland 4Now, as a small business owner, her small business management classes are all the more pertinent.

“It’s phenomenal. I could not imagine doing the things I’m doing without the classes and background,” she said. “I feel like there are key things in each class that I’ve been able to pull from.”

In addition to educational resources for the owner, the university has also provided a pool from which several Clarion Center for the Arts instructors have been selected. Student Brooke Schwabenbauer teaches dance, while student Hayley Bowders and theatre professor Marilouise “Mel” Michel teach theatre.

To learn more about Clarion Center for the Arts, visit online at

1/16/2014 8:00 AM

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