Clayton Stephenson is just one of the many success stories of the NoDa School of Arts. Since the summer of 2005, the NoDa School of Arts has undertaken on the unheard task of putting on a Broadway style musical with 30 kids in about 5 ½ weeks. Most of the students come with little experience or ability to pay for the other performing arts camps that Charlotte offers in the summer.

A newcomer, Clayton is a 15 year old rising freshman at Northwest School of Arts in 2008. While he had lots of experience singing for family and at church, he'd never been involved with musical theater. Clayton came not really knowing anyone or what to expect but by the end of the very first week he, along with all the students, auditioned for roles and were cast in the show. The staff was surprised and elated to hear such a big, full sound come out of this teenage boy. Clayton, who almost backed out of attending, came away with the title role: Willy Wonka.

Shy and reserved Clayton was even awkward in his new role. After only a few days of training and familiarizing himself with the role and the script, Clayton began to come to life. His beautiful and strong tenor voice filled the whole auditorium and many of the other cast members would break rehearsal protocol to clap wildly for him.

Over the next couple of weeks Clayton grew in confidence and development of his character. At times he had to be drawn out more by the director and at other times his newly developed stage instincts were dead on with no prompting at all. Clayton also grew in his role of leader of the cast, a heavy and sometimes burdensome task. He came to see how his commitment to the character and the rehearsal process helped his fellow cast mates match his energy. He came to understand that his character as a person mattered just as much on stage as off. All of the younger students looked up to him and the students his age were encouraged and inspired by his bravery. Particularly positive was his impact on the boys whose image of "cool" is certainly not singing, dancing, and acting on stage. Clayton was very cool all while being himself.

Clayton's experience with the NoDa School of Arts Summer Musical gave him the training and experience to go out and audition for other roles and performances. He has since auditioned for the role of Willy Wonka with the CPCC theater department's presentation of the same show. He also competed and won HomeTown Idol in Lancaster, SC which is local version of the show American Idol and is currently competing in the Triad Idol in the Triad area of North Carolina. In each competition Clayton performs his signature song which he learned so well last summer-Pure Imagination. Clayton plans to return to the NoDa School of Arts Summer Musical program in 2009. The money received from the Speedway Children's Charities grant was integral in allowing the NoDa School of Arts to offer a well rounded and high quality programs for young people like Clayton Stephenson. The investment that the SCC made is one that will have a lifetime of impact on Clayton's life and many others.