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Category Archives: AmeriCorps

Meet Corinna Archer

by Corinna Archer, Programs Associate AmeriCorps VISTA

Hi, my name is Corinna Archer and I am so excited to be joining the Creative Action family as the new Programs Associate VISTA! While I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first day (besides asking a million questions), everyone has been so welcoming and helped me feel right at home in my new role in the office for the next year. When I started as a volunteer at Creative Action in 2011, I was so excited to find a meaningful way to serve my hometown community through my skills making costumes and working with youth that I developed during college as a dramaturgy major at Carnegie Mellon University. One year of AmeriCorps service with Communities In Schools of Central Texas and many volunteer hours with Creative Action later, I have deepened my relationship with Creative Action as a VISTA where I can share my passion for the arts and serve the community by helping give youth access to empowering creative learning opportunities.

I just returned from a fantastic pre-service orientation in Dallas where I met so many inspiring VISTAs, and learned about the history and mission of Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) and how VISTAs fight poverty by supporting and strengthening non-profit organizations around the country. While learning about the variety of ways VISTAs help to combat poverty by developing community resources, I was reminded of the “4 C’s” that Creative Action programs inspire students to become: creative artists, critical thinkers, courageous allies, and confident leaders. While all of the VISTAs I met at PSO were focused on addressing different community needs through their service with all kinds of amazing organizations, as VISTAs we will each embody the”4 Cs” throughout our year of service as we solve problems with creativity and compassion, engage volunteers in meaningful service opportunities, and stand up against injustices in the community.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA I am proud to serve as a role model of the “4 C’s” in my community by supporting the mission of Creative Action to activate the academic, social and emotional development of youth through the creative arts, and I can’t wait to see what wonderful experiences this year will bring!

The World As I See It

by Erik Weasenforth, Marketing Associate VISTA

Sometimes it seems like life is just one big movie. But is each and every one of our “movies” written or improvised? There are many instances in my life that seemed predetermined like a screenplay. One of the most improbable situations I’ve ever encountered was after I just made a new friend in 6th grade. We were going into a middle school the next year with a thousand other students in our grade yet we somehow ended up having our lockers right next to each other. Or, the time when I had a horrible professor in a college animation course who ended up leaving for the rest of the semester, only to be replaced by the coolest, most informative and helpful teacher I’d ever have.

All of these events make me feel like someone was guiding the reel of my film of life. I’m glad I got the opportunity to have these great friends and teachers in my experiences.

And my life’s film theme continues here at TAP. I recently visited the Film Club students at Del Valle Middle School. With the help of the talented Teaching Artist Marcelo Teson, from Theatre Action Project, I found out they are filming a documentary called Cardinal 1 (formerly known as Reach for the Stars), which will talk about how science is taught in schools and how kids in our schools think about science and space.

For the film they are working on:

  • interviewing students, teachers, and possibly an astronaut
  • launching a camera into space using a weather balloon rig.

The Del Valle Middle School Film Club had no way they could this on their own budget, so they started a Kickstarter campaign. The goal was to raise funds for their project in 60 days, but they got it within 72 hours! These students are showing us that they are capable of not only dreaming big, but achieving even bigger things, all because they were given the opportunities from others who cared.

Stay tuned for the posting of their movie on YouTube coming soon.

National Service Week: Celebrating Our Volunteers

by Katie Grills, Community Relations AmeriCorps VISTA

Annie Hsu, TAP Volunteer

I had an argument with my Humanities professor a few years ago. I’d trudged through much of the other 2 semesters of this required course, but my last semester was different. We had a professor that challenged us to apply philosophical ideas and principles to our own lives. For my final paper, I posited that my generation was more compelled to rise above selfish ambition than any other in recent memory, and that for every bit of negative press that existed, there was a positive action happening that countered it.

He used the Socratic method to challenge my opinion in the hope of strengthening my argument. “What about the growing disparity between the rich and poor? Is that not a reflection of the drive towards greed? If you believe that there is this huge movement towards serving others, then why do so many people characterize modern youth as lazy bums?” After talking over these arguments, doing some soul searching, and making a few edits for sound logic, I got an A on the paper and the rights to say I successfully rid my professor of any doubt that we are living in a time of giving.

Eraina Porras, Spring Break Camp Intern Volunteer

As I celebrate National Service Week here at Theatre Action Project (TAP), I have thousands of reasons to believe that my argument still rings true. They are:

  • The hours of time that our volunteers of every age have selflessly given to help youth in the Austin community (1,215 since August 2012 and counting, to be exact);
  • The smiles that our teaching artists and volunteers see at our after school programming; and 
  • The thousands of hours a month that TAP spends in classrooms across Central Texas to help our youth become creative artists, courageous allies, critical thinkers, and confident leaders in their communities.

    (l-r) Emily Watkins and Sharon Chin, Texas Tower PR volunteering with Tbeatre Action Project

Those thousands of TAP achievements are but a drop in the bucket of all the good that happens in our nation every day. We’re proud to do our part.

Elizabeth Gonzalez, TAP Summer Camp Assistant and Junior League Volunteer

We will celebrate the achievements and service of our amazing volunteers and committed community partners on Tuesday, April 24 at TAP’s Spring Open House. Please join us for rewards and fellowship with those who are keeping the light of service and positive action alive. Email me at katie@theatreactionproject.org to RSVP, or visit our Facebook Event Page to RSVP.

TAP After School: Taking a look at our spring

by Cassie Swayze, After School Programs Associate AmeriCorps VISTA

It is hard to believe but we are only a month away from the end of our spring semester in TAP After-School. This is my fourth semester at Theatre Action Project and the busiest yet! Our Teaching Artists are wrapping up their projects, we’re gearing up to thank all our fabulous volunteers at the Open House next week, and we’re looking forward to a busy season of Summer Camp.

Four Square play ground marking design by Griffin Ramsey

One of the more exciting projects I focused on this spring is our partnership with University of Texas’ School of Public Health (UTSPH) painting playground markings at local elementary schools. The Active Play Project is taking place in schools throughout Del Valle and Bastrop ISD. Ten of our talented Teaching Artists are currently working with their campus principals, teachers, parents, and students to undertake this community-based arts project. Using stencils the TAs designed as well as ones loaned to us by UTSPH, our teachers are painting a variety of markings around their campuses.

Throughout my time at TAP I have assisted with painting a few murals; painting a playground marking is a similar yet unique process. This project required distinctive supplies: traffic marking paint, styrene stencils, and power-washing, not to mention battling wind, weather changes, and the challenges of coordinating ten professional artist-educators. Working alongside Natalie Goodnow, Caroline Reck, and Sarah Rinner, we created an efficient system for tracking each stencil. I also researched traffic marking paint companies (a skill I never imagined having!) and ordered a lot of paint. We also ordered two new styrene stencils from a local company, which I picked up on Monday. It was an exciting moment to see the beautiful, unused stencils laid out on the TAP lawn.

Final painted play ground marking

The TAs are already hard at work painting their campuses. We’re all learning valuable lessons about coordinating a large-scale community arts project. One of our teachers, Lillie Hollingsworth put it best when she said, “…it isn’t about perfection, it’s about community!” I could not agree more and cannot wait to see the finished playgrounds!

Read more about our work with the Active Play Project: CLICK HERE.

Start at the End

by Amanda Davis, Guest Blogger

Andrew Stanton illustrating WALL-E. Photo: LA Times

Ever wanted to know the best way to tell a story creatively? Start at the end. Andrew Stanton, Pixar filmmaker for the great films like Toy Story and WALL-E, started his TEDTalk by explaining that he was going to tell you how he got to where he was today on that stage, but wanted to start at the end. One thing that we must remember when telling a story creatively is the ability to capture the audience, to really pull someone into the story, to make them care. By doing this not only make the story something that progresses forward and keep someone’s attention, but it also gives the opportunity for the story to be remembered and passed on.

Theatre Action Project, as a non-profit arts organization, has the ability to tell these stories through the heart and mouths of the children that they teach. They take the opportunity to creatively form a story that makes you care about the cause and the minds of the children that participate. They do this through images, performances and even through the ordinary words of life. Take the time to appreciate a good story, and tell one of your own. As Andrew Stanton said, “The greatest story commandment is: Make me care.” Tell your story to inspire, to create, lead your story to the understanding that it matters.

Amanda Davis is a former AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer who served Theatre Action Project from 2011 to 2012.