The ultimate class clowns: Take a look at this unique Mott Community College honors program

FLINT, Michigan—Tinkers, an Auguste Character clown, has been working on her makeup since 6:45am. The usual progress for clown makeup is listed on the board: White. Red. Base. Black. Blush. Some other clowns have pictures out to reference their look and make sure it is consistent. 

After applying her makeup 100-plus times, Tinkers doesn’t really need a guide. Plus, she’s smart. 

Tinkers—also known as Alyshia Turner, 25, of Flint—is one of 10 student members of Mott Campus Clowns, a group of honors students who clown as part of a unique touring troupe that delivers an anti-bullying message in performances across Michigan. There is no other program like it in the state of Michigan.

“I’ve been a part of this troop for three semesters now,” says Turner, a student at Rochester College who takes her classes at Mott Community College through a consortium agreement.

Turner actually comes from a family of clowns. Growing up, her mother created the costumes and the family entertained at everything from birthday parties to corporate events. They moved from New York to Flint when Turner was a senior in high school. “My mom was very encouraging when I was growing up about being creative and being out in the world and trying to make people laugh,” Turner said.

During her Honors Program orientation, she learned about the Mott Campus Clowns as one of the ways to earn mandatory community service hours. “I jumped in head first from there and I’ve enjoyed it ever since,” Turner said. 

“Being a clown is a talent, a skill to be learned. It’s a matter of letting go of yourself and becoming something that other people can enjoy and caring less about what people think about you,” said Turner. “Even though you're out to help other people, this is about you, too. It’s about learning more about yourself and what it means to be a person who helps other people.”

The troop performs an anti-bullying show to teach children the importance of not being a bully and how you can help others who are being bullied under the leadership Brian Ivory, coordinator of MCC’s Honors Program, founder of the Mott Campus Clowns, and “Dr. Bubby” during performances. Created six and a half years ago, this year’s troop has a busy fall schedule— visiting eight schools, four boys and girls clubs, three parades (including the Detroit Thanksgiving parade), events at the Flint Children's Museum, and the upcoming MCC Halloween Party. 

Few can even begin to imagine the amount of preparation that goes into clowning. First, to be a member of the Mott Campus Clowns, students must be in the honors program, maintain a good grade point average, complete an eight-week training program, and develop their costumes and personas.
As the clowns prepared last week for their official portraits inside Mott’s Regional Technology Center, tools of their trade were scattered about. Students from Mott’s Transitions cosmetology school were onhand to help cut new wigs to give them their shape and character. The place was abuzz with clowns at all different stages of makeup and dress.

Every now and again you could see puffs of setting powder fill the air—and likely partially inhaled by the clown-to-be. “Not pleasant, but it’s what we do for beauty,”  said Turner—almost, but not yet completely, transformed into Tinkers. 

With an associate’s degree in media arts and entertainment technology already under her belt and a bachelor’s on the way, Turner is looking ahead to the future. As Turner, she thinks maybe she would like to go on to teach at the collegiate level someday. As Tinkers, she thinks today is a beautiful day to teach a few lessons. 

“For me, it’s about focusing on the future and our future generations and making sure they understand what it means to be a good person to other people,” Tinkers said, with her ever present smile.  

The 2017-18 Mott Campus Clown troop "official portrait."
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