Chapel Hill student awarded $2.5K grant

Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Photo submitted Choreographer and costume designer Devin Clevenger, as the carrot, and his friends, The Party Veggies (pea, tomato, corn and onion)

CHAPEL HILL -- Chapel Hill resident Devin Clevenger is one of 10 winners of a Del Monte Do Something Good for You! grant of $2,500.

His winning presentation started as a community service project for school last fall. Clevenger, 17, got the idea to promote eating more vegetables to the elementary school children by dressing up as vegetables with four of his friends and dancing to "We Like to Party."

A friend of his parents directs the school lunches as Chapel Hill Elementary, so it wasn't hard to get permission for The Party Veggies to perform during National School Lunch week. The children got to join in part of the dancing, and the teenagers also talked to them about the importance of eating right and exercising. Next year he hopes to add some fruits to the line-up and perform the routine again.

Clevenger sings, dances, acts and plays the piano. He also has a 3.9 grade point average and stands 6th in his senior class at Forrest High School. He's been accepted at Belmont, but still has to audition for admission to the prestigious musical theater program. If he can't get in to that and graduate with a musical theater degree, he'll major in theater and minor in music.

"Belmont is so good with musical theater. It's already recognized in New York as a good school," Clevenger explained. If he can't get performing jobs, he'd like to teach musical theater.

Surprisingly, none of his family is musical -- or theatrical. Clevenger's mother took him to an audition for the first children's production at the Dixie in 1998. He got the part in "It's a Dungaree World" and was instantly hooked.

"I loved it and haven't stopped since!" he said.

His parents have been tremendously supportive, taking him to singing lessons in Brentwood and dance lessons in Bellevue, as well as driving him to Franklin, where he has been acting in productions since he was in 6th grade.

Things have improved lately since he can drive himself and the last few shows he has done in Franklin have been as a paid professional, in other words he made enough to pay for his gas.

Clevenger's been to a lot of auditions since 1998 and as he remarks philosophically, "You hear 'no' 90 percent of the time -- that's just part of the business."

One part he did get recently was in "Live B.I.G.," which stands for Belief in God, a new Methodist Church series he describes as a "sitcom for Sunday school" which was filmed in Nashville. An on-set tutor made up for missing school for two weeks and Clevenger obviously enjoyed his venture into show-biz life, even if it meant days that started at 6:30 a.m. and ended after 10 p.m. You might have also seen him in a TV commercial for Captain D's.

Del Monte is one of the country's largest and best-known food producers. They teamed with Do Something, a not-for-profit internet company which believes young people have the power to make a difference. The 10 grant winners were chosen from hundreds of young people across the country who submitted their healthy living ideas and programs designed to educate kids and families on how the can lead healthier, more active lives.

"It is an honor to recognize these impressive young people for their dedication to healthy living in our communities," said Richard G. Wolford, chairman and chief executive officer of Del Monte Foods.

One day when Clevenger is starring on Broadway, Marshall County residents can say, "I knew him when he was just a dancing carrot!"