At-Risk Youth Receive Trapeze Training From Portland Circus Guru

Jenn Cohen is giving Portland's homeless and at-risk teens confidence and empowerment through her nonprofit -- and the gift of flight.

Cohen launched in 2008 the Circus Project, which teaches local youth the roots of circus art and how to fly on a trapeze, reports The Oregonian:

The Circus Project has grown steadily into a multitiered program that starts with free drop-in sessions for the curious, who can work their way into an intensive training company, private lessons and -- if they're truly gifted -- a professional performance group.

Cohen fell in love with trapeze flying at 13, and has studied the art of circus -- in European, Native American and Chinese cultures -- for 21 years. She's spent the last few passing on her knowledge to teenagers in need.

In a 2009 interview, Circus Project student Nicolette Render said:

"The circus project made me who I want to be. Which is not to say I always wanted to be a trapeze artist, but I always wanted to be strong. I wanted to be capable. And [that's] what I got by joining the circus."

The organization will host its annual fundraiser Friday night to give the company a chance to perform and raise money for the 2011 season.

Get tickets if you're in the Portland area, or visit the Circus Project to make a donation.