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Circus of life: Dreams take flight amid urban blight

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/3/2017 By JOSEPH FREDERICK, Associated Press
In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, people watch a performance by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) © The Associated Press In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, people watch a performance by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A group of would-be circus performers in New Jersey's capital city are using unicycles, acrobatics and spinning plates to bridge the divide between poverty and privilege.

In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, Gabbie Cain, back, and Eric Marrero perform a juggling act during a show by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) © The Associated Press In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, Gabbie Cain, back, and Eric Marrero perform a juggling act during a show by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Trenton Circus Squad brings kids ages 12-17 from both the struggling city and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give them a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities.

In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, a crowd reacts at the end of an act called "Diablo" by Eric Marrero during a performance by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) © The Associated Press In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, a crowd reacts at the end of an act called "Diablo" by Eric Marrero during a performance by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Director Tom von Oehsen trained as a clown with Ringling Bros. circus in the 1980s and says the squad brings hope to a city with high crime and poverty.

In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, women react to a comedy act during a performance by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) © The Associated Press In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, women react to a comedy act during a performance by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes, the group's executive director, created the circus squad two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities.

In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, girls perform a silk dancing act during a performance by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

In a photo taken Thursday, March 30, 2017, girls perform a silk dancing act during a performance by the Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, N.J. The squad, comprised of kids age 12 to 17 from both the struggling city of Trenton and its wealthier suburbs together, using circus skills to give kids a sense of belonging and a belief in their own abilities. Tom von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes created the group two years ago to try to change perceptions and stereotypes that lead to negative assumptions about teens in inner cities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
© The Associated Press
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