My relationship with YPT began eight years ago, when I was in high school. It was a very weird time in my life. I wasn’t investing in my education, I was just trying to get by. I put way more work into the play I wrote for YPT than I did into Chemistry and Math.
I’ve spoken before about how powerful it was for me when YPT produced my play. I watched as professional actors, people who are trained to use words, actually said my words. It was a huge boost of confidence. I often think back to that moment when I’m in the classroom. I get to say to my students, “I was where you are. If I can do it, so can you.”
I went to college in Santa Cruz, California. When I left DC I didn’t think I was coming back. I was going to paradise and I was going to become happy and mellow. Instead, I developed this yearning to return here. I really wanted to change things. I saw such injustice: it’s poetic in a sick way, the poverty that exists in our nation’s capital. YPT became that thing that I was going to contribute – I could come back home and make a difference in the lives of students.
When I think back to my first interview with David and Patrick, who had just started as Producing Artistic Director and Program Manager, it’s pretty embarrassing. I was very naïve and I may have actually said that I wanted to “change the world.” I was so earnest, but I think it worked for me because at that time David and Patrick were just starting their journey with YPT. Being over-eager simply made me a good fit for the new leadership.
I’ve worked closely with David and Patrick since that first interview, and this year I took on the title of Program Manager – Patrick’s role when I met him. Patrick has been a mentor to me, and YPT has been a place where I’ve honed my skills as an arts educator. I’m so grateful for this.
I’m sure you can guess that being Program Manager is not always a breeze. I love to brag about how creative our students are, and what amazing writers they are, which is very true. What I don’t always love to talk about are the struggles that we as teaching artists confront in the classroom. I’ve worked with groups of students that were challenging for any number of reasons: students who were struggling to learn English, students who were coping with serious problems in their personal lives, and sometimes simply a group with tough social dynamics. These experiences are always rewarding in the end. These are the students that force you to fight for what you want – something we tell them makes a good character.
I said to my students just the other day, “You may not care about this, but that’s tough. You’re going to do it. Because I care too much about you to let you give up.” I’ve found that when you invest in students in that way they never disappoint you.