About Us

CircEsteem’s mission is to unite youth across all backgrounds and identities by fostering self-esteem and mutual respect through the practice and performance of circus arts.

A circus performance in a public park
A circus performance in a public park

Founded in 2001 by retired Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey clown, Paul Miller, CircEsteem helps youth build self-esteem and create safe and diverse communities through the learning of circus arts.  During the first half of 2017, CircEsteem worked with more than 750 diverse youth from 21 Chicago neighborhoods through academic enrichment, mentoring, and in-school arts enrichment programming. Youth are supported to build personal development and leadership skills such as self-esteem and teamwork through the training of circus arts utilizing social circus methodology. For the past 20 years, CircEsteem has provided its unique social circus programming throughout the City of Chicago to thousands of youth.

Social circus is an innovative social intervention approach based on using circus arts to impact social change.

It targets various at-risk groups living in precarious personal and social situations including underserved youth. In this approach, the primary goal is not to learn the circus arts, but rather to assist participants’ personal and social development by nurturing their self-esteem and trust in others as well as by helping them to acquire social skills, become active citizens, express their creativity, and realize their potential. Social circus is a powerful catalyst for creating social change because it helps marginalized individuals assume their place within a community and enrich that community with their talents. At CircEsteem through social circus, participants develop a strong sense of community over weeks of continued practice and training with diverse individuals from their own community and from other communities in Chicago.

Our Statement on Acceptance:

CircEsteem pledges to create an environment within our headquarters that will function as a safe space when you need assistance, or need to be alone, or need to be around others who feel the same as you do. CircEsteem is determined to provide a respectful and supportive space for all. 

We will continue to strive towards creating a space where you can: 

  • safely discover who you are
  • always know that you’ll be heard
  • allow yourself to be vulnerable and build an emotional connection with those around you
CircEsteem Values Statement
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Get Involved
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Donate

CircEsteem relies on the generosity of its donors and partners.

Volunteer

Opportunities include, but are not limited to: Tutoring and Performance Support.

Careers

Make the circle bigger. From acrobatics to accounting, we appreciate your help!