HOUSTON -

Budget cuts have slashed many arts programs in Texas schools, and Sharpstown High School is no exception.

The high school lost their choir program and have only a small black-box theater program.

Julio Morales, a graduate of Sharpstown who went on to major in theater and came back to teach the same subject at his alma mater, wanted to make a difference.

And this year he has found a way, through a program offered by NBC.

The people at the National Broadcast Company were looking for an outreach project to connect to their new endeavor, the show Smash

What they came up with is called "Make A Musical." The program has the network footing the bill to put on a musical at 20 different high schools around the country.

Morales signed up and Sharpstown was one of the schools chosen.

"NBC is trying to assist schools who might not have the resources to create a musical theater program," said Morales.

Just like their counterparts on Smash, the students want a hit but not for the network. They are hoping to create not only one show but also a whole musical theater program.

The Sharpstown production pulls students from theater, band, and other parts of the school to work together to put on a Broadway style performance of "Fame Jr." It is a toned-down version of the 1980s movie and TV series about a performing arts program in New York.

"Schools need an escape from the hardcore classes and stuff, and this is a way to relax and do that," said Deondra Walters, a theater student and junior at Sharpstown High School.

NBC's outreach program is administered through the non-profit iTheatrics, which helps students across the country stage Broadway musicals. Part of the program is paying the licensing fees and costs of sending Martin Johnson, the Artistic Director at iTheatrics, to Houston for several of the student rehearsals.

Staging a musical production can range anywhere from $1,500 - $3,000, and that doesn't include the costs for costumes, sound equipment, lights, and advertising.

"It wasn't, 'Here's a grant. Do a musical. Yea!' It is not just the skills of putting on a musical, which is tough enough, but it is the skills of how to create a program and make it sustainable," said Johnson.

On top of the money and Johnson's input, teachers are given workshops on budgeting and funding, plus a little extra money for their time.

The program also pays for a liaison from Theater Under The Star's Humphrey's School of Musical Theater to come by and lend guidance and support.

The whole "Make A Musical" project is to show everyone from the top down how to not only put on a musical, but also how to find the money to support a program in the future.

"Learning to be sustainable is good, because, let's face it, school money is tough to come by," Johnson said.

Morales and the co-sponsor on the project, Sharpstown High School Band Director Brenda Corral-Smith, told KPRC Local 2 cutting the arts is shortsighted.

"When they have to eliminate something, the first thing they cut is choir, theater, band. They don't realize a lot of the things they learn here," Smith said.

The teachers said what these kids are learning while performing on this school stage is preparing them for what they will have to deal with in life, at work, or with their families.

Ashley Rose is a junior and in the band. She said this experience has helped her make new and different friends and has taught her about interacting with people.

Perla Lopez, a freshman theater student, said her fellow students have taught her to overcome her extreme shyness to be able to get on the stage in front of people.

"I just love working with the many different personalities, stepping out of their comfort zone to become something else on stage. It is beautiful," said Gloria Johnson, a senior theater student.

"When you do see the students blossom in the end, I mean that's enough," Smith said.

NBC has pledged to fund the program for three years. Ten more schools will be added to the list next fall.

Sharpstown High School will perform their musical, "Fame, Jr." on May 24th and 25th in the school auditorium.