Local non-profit acting camp changes students life

It sometimes only takes one person, or one experience to change your life. That experience for me came during elementary school. At this time, I struggled trying to figure out who I wanted to be. I never knew where I would fit in or what my hobbies were. I also struggled a lot with making friends and talking to new people. And it wasn’t exactly easy for the other kids to come talk to me first. I was known as “that kid” who would sit in the back of the class and draw flowers, never wanting to talk to anyone else. That all ended as soon as I got the news that the children’s theater that my brother and sister worked at allowed me to attend free of charge.


At this time in my life, I was living with my mom, 15-year-old sister and 19-year-old brother in a two bedroom apartment. Life wasn’t exactly easy. It had been easier than my previous years when I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with three other people, but things would still get hard. My mom had lost her job and we were living mostly off my uncle’s money, so summers for me were mainly spent at home with the company of myself.


One summer, I got the opportunity to attend Austin Children’s Theater, where my brother and sister worked. The idea was not too intriguing at first. My biggest fear at the time was being able to open myself up to an audience. But I decided to give it a shot — it had seemed more entertaining than playing school with myself each day.


As soon as I entered the camp, I felt accepted. Talena, the founder of the camp welcomed me with a big hug. I still remember to this day how shy I was, but she was so confident. I wanted to be just like her. It didn’t take long for me to realize there were other kids at the camp just like me. People came from completely different backgrounds and had completely different personalities. One thing I really admire about ACT is they accept all kids, regardless of any disorders they may have. One kid I met through the program had Aspergers, and I got a chance to interact with kids who may have seemed a little different but were really just like me. I understood at a very young age that all of us kids were just the same. Some felt alone, but we all deserve friends. My first week of camp, I completely opened up both as a person and as an actor. It inspired me to bring performing into my life, and today I am proud to say I am the biggest Gleek ever. I love everything about the arts, and it all started at this one camp that taught me no matter who you are, you’re special and worth something.


From that first day of camp, I have grown so much. I love to be social now. I love meeting new people and getting a chance to sing in front of people. Most importantly, I have learned to make friends with those who may seem different. Disorders don’t mean anything to me. Just because you may seem a little off doesn’t make you scary or not worth spending time with. I understand that it’s hard being an outsider.


I feel lucky to have had the chance to attend Austin Children’s Theater for a whole summer, and today I am proud to be a junior counselor there. It’s so funny how something so simple can make such a huge impact on your life. ACT didn’t only inspire me to be a bolder and confident person, but it also taught me to notice the importance of every person on this earth.