by Natalie Goodnow, Artistic Associate
I can’t help but brag about one of our superstar courageous leader Theatre Action Project students. When TAP Artistic Associate, Keri Boyd and I first started touring Courage in Action last year, one student, a fifth-grader at Smith Elementary at the time, blew us away. On Day 3 of Courage in Action, students engage in “simulations.” Through role play, they practice making plans and taking action to solve problems that affect their lives. The imaginary situation: a group of elementary students were trying to persuade other students to help them launch a community garden at their school. Keri and I, as “devil’s advocates” so to speak, were asking students how exactly they would take the plan, plant, and tend for this garden. One student piped up, saying “I’ll do it! I’ll plant the seeds! I’ll water the garden! And then, I can weed! I can do it all!”
I don’t know if we truly believe that a lasting transformation happens with any one person acting all by themselves, but still… We left just so wowed by her conviction, we were talking about her for weeks.
When we returned to Smith Elementary for a follow-up visit a couple of months later, we had students write letters about any problem in the world that they wanted to solve. It was open to anyone they thought could help. We got a lot of amazing responses–and quite a few letters to the president in particular. This same student’s response really stood out. She wrote a long letter to the World Wildlife Fund with detailed ideas for plans about how kids better protect sea turtles. She even borrowed ideas from current preservation efforts by wolf biologists. She signed the letter “Merry Christmas, and thank you,” and also included “courageous leader at Smith Elementary, and turtle hugger” after her name. We never even talked about sea turtles in the program; we just cover techniques for taking action on any problem you care about. This one student went above and beyond to do research all on her own – amazing. We just couldn’t get over what a bright and motivated courageous leader she is!
This year, we brought Courage in Action to Ojeda Middle School. Guess who was in our class again this year? She’s as amazing as ever and eagerly participating in discussions and “simulations” and full of ideas to protect animals and change the world. And here’s where it gets really exciting–this student is also in one of the film classes in our TAP Afterschool Program at Ojeda taught by the fabulously talented Moeko Crider. The student approached us with the fantastic news about her next film project which is a Public Service Announcement (PSA) about the protection of wild owls. We can’t wait to see it!
We certainly can’t take all the credit for this student’s amazing conviction, but I do believe that we’ve been a part of activating her belief that she truly can make a difference. I also feel confident that we’ve shared some valuable tools with her to be a true courageous leader out in the world. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt she will use those tools for all they’re worth and we wish her the best in her future endeavors.