Class of 2003
Major: Journalism/Mass Communication & English
I always wanted to do creative work. Creative as in artistic, of course, but also work that creates something new, that changes how people see the world and one another.
When you graduate from college you have to start making choices. I wanted to be an actor and writer. I also wanted a job. I was afraid to stake my future on the arts, which are infamous for their unemployment statistics. I admit it — I was afraid! I also felt a pull toward working with young people — especially those at risk. I come from a family of teachers and have seen how they impact people’s lives. I didn’t know how to reconcile the things I loved and my need for stability.
Most of my internships (thank you, J-School!) were in arts administration, so I looked there as a safe start. I didn’t expect when I moved to Washington, D.C., for a four-month internship at Arena Stage that I would still be there six years later. Who knew that a job that started with drawing up contracts and researching donors would lead to my vocation?
At the end of my time learning about arts administration from a gifted mentor, Stephen Richard, I knew it was not for me. But I had seen what I wanted to do! I’d attended one of the theater’s outreach workshops and there were all the things I loved in one place. I didn’t know jobs like that existed – and then I was asked if I wanted one.
For six years, I have worked in Arena Stage’s Community Engagement Division, doing arts outreach and education throughout the D.C. metro area. Bringing students to the theater; devising performance pieces; leading professional development workshops; empowering at-risk youths to tell their stories; staging students’ first plays with professional actors: Arena Stage’s programs have a profound effect on the cultural life of D.C.
Nearly every day I am lucky enough to see how art changes lives.
I have been part of more than 3,000 students’ first trip to see live theater. I have helped young people affected by grief, traumatic loss or HIV/AIDS learn to use their body and voice to express their feelings. I’ve worked with passionate teachers committed to bringing new energy and opportunities to their students. I’ve helped start a summer arts community where young people of different socio-economic background can come to explore, discover and create art together. (See film of my baby, Camp Arena Stage, at www.arenastage.org/camp)
This work has helped me know my city, my world and myself. It has engaged me in the state of public schools — D.C.’s are among the most troubled in the nation — and other justice issues. It has exposed me to the world of grief and trauma victims and children in the foster care system. It has connected me to people from different backgrounds. I’ve learned a lot seeing how we are the same, but still respecting and celebrating difference. And it has made me less afraid.
Beginning my sophomore year, I interned at the Quick Center for the Arts. When I wasn’t working on the newsletter at my desk in the QCA copy room, you were likely to find me in Garret Theater, in the basement of Butler or onstage in the Rigas. My Bonaventure friends and mentors, Michael Hill and Cristin Chase, helped me get jobs at Chautauqua Theatre Company and, later, Arena Stage. Michael Hill was instrumental in turning my internship at Arena into the job it is today. When the executive director asked Michael how they could get me to come back to Arena, he said, “Give her a job doing what she wants to do.”
Without question, I would not be where I am were it not for St. Bonaventure.