Meet the Winner of YPT’s “Friend-Raising” Challenge!


In November, we challenged you to join Young Playwrights’ Theater’s Get 15 to Give $15 Friend-Raising Challenge. The winner is Teaching Artist Michelle Tang Jackson, whose energies engaged both new donors and new volunteers to support YPT. We are so proud and thankful for her efforts, and for support from the wider YPT community. Congratulations, Michelle!

Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT): What is your connection to YPT? Why did you decide to be involved?

Michelle Tang Jackson (MTJ): I am lucky to be a Teaching Artist with YPT. I heard about YPT when I moved to DC about three years ago – it sounded like an amazing organization and I really wanted to work for them! I was thrilled that there was a program that focused on getting students to write in an active, imaginative way.

YPT: Your students refer to you differently than other Teaching Artists. Why do your students call you “Coach”?
MTJ: I’ve always had my YPT students call me Coach because that’s what I feel I do in their classroom – I help them tap into their own creative voices, practice with them, and cheer them on, but ultimately they are the ones that have to play. This semester I felt like my nickname was justified when a particularly stubborn student gave me a sideways glance and told me he didn’t like teachers and then followed up with something like, “But you’re a coach, so it’s different. You’re cool.”

YPT: Why did you decide to participate in the “Friend-Raising” Challenge?
I see the effect that YPT has on students firsthand in the classroom and the thought of YPT programming getting cut breaks my heart! Also, I am one of YPT’s Community Ambassadors and want everyone to know about what YPT is doing in the community. Plus, I thought that the idea of “friend-raising” was less daunting than fundraising.

YPT: What was it like to ask people to give? Were people responsive? Who did you ask?
MTJ: Usually it’s hard to ask people for money, especially in this economy – and harder still when many of your friends are poor artists and students! But I told people what I had seen in the classroom and why I thought YPT’s programming was so important, and I was really surprised at people’s willingness to donate! I asked friends, family, and was blessed to have my letter sent out to the DC Furies Rugby team!

YPT: Have you done a campaign like this before?
MTJ: No – and YPT made friend-raising really fun and easy. A bunch of my awesome friends also donated their time and participated in YPT’s holiday campaign Phone-Bank. I liked that YPT was focusing on thanking their community; YPT always makes me feel truly appreciated, and I’ve seen how they extend genuine gratitude to their students, artists, audiences, and donors.

YPT: What hopes do you have for YPT this year and for the future?
MTJ: That YPT continues to grow and be able to reach even more students with their programming and not have to face more budget cuts in the schools!

YPT: What would you like to say to the people who gave to YPT?
Y’all are amazing – thank you for helping keep YPT alive and students writing! Thank you to Thurm, Jo, CJ, Ellen, Nicole, Keli and Brian, Frankie, Regina, Rachel, Lina, Ryan, Graham, Kyle, Uncle Jose, and the DC Furies!

YPT: Our Workshop students will be creating a piece inspired by you. What stories do you plan to share with them?
Oh, wow, where to start? I guess I’d like to tell them about how I actually ended up in DC. About what an odd kid I was (and how that’s helped me be a Teaching Artist today). About why I love my home state California. About how people often ask, “What are you?” in regards to my ethnic ambiguity, but in DC most people assume I’m from a Latin speaking country (I wish I spoke Spanish so I could be a better teaching artist! My mom is actually Chinese and my dad is Caucasian). What I told people I wanted to be when I grew up (it varied between clown, veterinarian, movie star, and poet).

YPT: What is the hat of a hundred things?
MTJ: Back in elementary school we had a holiday that marked 100 days of school left in the year. Always a fan of dressing up and of large hats, I decided to design a fabulous sombrero that had a fringe made of 100 pony beads and glue 100 little objects all over it. Items included a plastic frog, a penny, a piece of Juicy Fruit gum, a racecar, pictures of friends, a balloon, etc. I had forgotten about it until last year when my mom visited DC and told all my friends how I would want to walk around the mall wearing it. Like I said, I was a weird kid, but my parents encouraged me to be creative. Now I am working on rebuilding it and promised those who donated to YPT would be represented on the hat somehow!

YPT: What would be the theme song for your life?
 It might be “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band – that is my morning jam and it always gets me going and puts a smile on my face. That or “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson.

YPT: Tell us something fun and surprising about yourself!
MTJ: I love bears! I own half a bear suit (it’s the bottom half).

Michelle "coaches" in a YPT classroom.

A big thank you to the hundreds of community members who gave to support YPT this holiday season. To those who have yet to make your gift, it’s not too late! Click here to show students their voices count and keep YPT programming strong this spring.

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