Category Archives: volunteers

Putting the polish on PSM

Jessica Crowe makes her living as a free-lance performance artist. She is used to performing in unique venues, from underwater-style theatres to big stages.  But Jessica has made a place for herself right here at DreamWrights. “The funny thing is, as a performance artist, I travel all over the country but DreamWrights is my favorite place to be. It’s really cool traveling but this is feels very much like home for me and it has helped York feel like home.”

In only her third production at DreamWrights, Jessica has found her passion behind the scenes. “I love the acting aspect of working on a production but as a Stage Manager you really get to work with the whole cast and the crew and you get to know everyone in the production. Whereas, as an actor, you’re really more involved with the people you’re specifically on stage with. I love being able to work with everybody.”

Jessica Crowe with Jaci Keagy

During The Wizard of Oz, Jessica became quite invaluable to director, Jaci Keagy. Jaci explains, “The most effective stage managers are those people who can see what needs to be done and just jump in and do it.  That was Jessica to a T.  She was especially strong during tech and when the show was running.  She was a good leader and kept her cool.  I felt fortunate to have her.”

This time around, Jessica is the Production Stage Manager (PSM) for Babe, the Sheep-Pig.  At DreamWrights, the PSM is the right hand to the director in a production. With her professional performance experience, and the lessons she’s learned at DreamWrights, Jessica shares her best advice for what makes an effective PSM:

  • Be Organized. “You have to be really organized with paperwork, be able to handle blocking, and be able to instruct your stage managers. Being PSM has helped to strengthen my organization skills.”
  • Listen. “Being able to listen and take direction really well are important because you have to pay attention to everything the director wants and make sure he/she has everything he/she needs to make the production a success.”
  • Be Flexible. “As the production grows, you have to be able to fit in where you’re needed and be able to make it a success. I’ve learned to take each moment for what it is and help out where I can.”

So as Babe opens this weekend and audiences sit back and enjoy the show, they’ll never know about the last minute mishaps or emergencies that may or may not be happening behind the scenes.  The show must go on, and Jessica Crowe will be there to make sure it does… successfully!

Thankful

This Thanksgiving, we pause to recognize many of the great things that make us thankful.

We are thankful for our Board of Directors that steers our non-profit company, navigating regulations, scooping up opportunity, and setting a course for success and longevity.

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We are thankful for our DreamWrights community. When we come together, we are so much more than the sum of our parts. It is you who makes DreamWrights so special. We are proud to call you family.

We are thankful for our tireless volunteers. You are the heart and soul of DreamWrights. We sincerely appreciate all of your time, effort, and enthusiasm.

We are thankful for our founding members who built DreamWrights’ strong foundational pillars, encouraging personal growth, inclusivity, and making DreamWrights a safe place to try new things and discover new interests and talents.

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We are thankful for our members. We greatly appreciate your ongoing support and vote of confidence.

We are thankful to those who make monetary and in-kind donations of all sizes and shapes. Among other things, we are happy to have lights, heat, and licensed scripts to keep our day-to-day operations running.

We are thankful to the larger York art community. We are inspired by your courageous participation in the arts and proud to be a part of this circle.

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We are thankful for our capital campaign donors. Without you, DreamWrights would not continue to grow, be relevant, draw new participants and audiences, and serve our community.

We are thankful for the opportunity to stage such a magically iconic musical, The Wizard of Oz, this holiday season. We appreciate the time and effort put forth by the crews and casts of this show, all working as a team to present our best show yet.

Critter Crew

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Bethany Mortorff (seated center) surrounded by the Critter Crew.

Have you seen the adorable handmade critters that are for sale at DreamWrights during the shows? They are created under the direction of Bethany Mortorff. You might say she heads up the DreamWrights “Critter Crew.”

It all began when she joined the costume crew in spring of 2015 for Tom Sawyer Sings. She remembers, “Rebecca [Eastman] taught me to sew and at the end of the show I made some of the turtle patterns she had. I just assumed making critters was something she did for every show so when I came back for the next show, I said, ‘What are we going to make’ and she said, ‘I don’t know.’”

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That’s when Bethany began designing concepts and patterns for critters beyond turtles. She started making mouse patterns and crafting cute stuffed mice but when she realized there weren’t going to be lobby sales for The Mouse that Roared, she started designing for Seussical. It took off from there.

For Seussical she made elephants and giraffes and other characters that were in the show. “I just started experimenting and making things up.” The popularity of the Seussical critters caught on quickly. They completely sold out in the first several days.

Bethany expects the critters she’s currently making for The Wizard of Oz to sell quickly as well. “I started designing the patterns months ago because I knew this show was coming. I’ve been trying to have them ready to go so that when the show came along it would be easier to make them.”

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Many of the patterns are her own, including the popular Ozian tree which has gotten a lot of attention and interest from the cast and crew. Bethany explains, “I wasn’t planning to make trees until they had people show up and get cast as trees then decide they didn’t want to be a tree and dropped out. I thought, for the people who are excited to be a tree, I’m going to make them a tree! And they got popular!”

Participating for the first time at DreamWrights, Andrea Mariano has found her way onto Bethany’s Critter Crew. Her three kids Julianna, Mason, and Taryn hold positions on the costume, lights, and props crews respectively (10 year old Mason will be operating the follow spot!). After dropping her kids off, Andrea decided to stick around and help out. She laughs, “Last week I showed up and Bob [McCleary] handed me a power drill. I had high heeled boots on. So now I just sneak up the back to the costume shop.” She says she feels more at home with scissors and fabric than with power tools and wood.

Although Bethany has made a big impact in the costume shop, she’s been on stage twice: Anne of Green Gables and The Adventures of Peter Rabbit. She says with a chuckle, “Every now and then they let me out of the costume shop but mostly I reside somewhere up here.”

Be sure to check out the Critter Crew’s creations for sale in the lobby before, during, and after The Wizard of Oz shows. Prices range from $5 – $25 each, while supplies last.

Summer at DreamWrights

Meredith Singleton is embarking on her senior year at York Suburban High School. She is the President of the Trojan Theatre Club, plays violin with the York Youth Symphony Orchestra, sings with the York County Honors Choir, and represented her school last year at Regional Chorus. Her busy school and activity schedule doesn’t permit her to get involved at DreamWrights during the school year but for the past three summers, Meredith has participated with DreamWrights’ Shakespeare program, Theatre Under the Trees.

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Also this summer, she added something additional to her resume: Teen Camp Counselor.

As a rising senior, Meredith knows that she needs to soon decide what she will do after high school. With her interest in theatre, she decided to volunteer as a teen counselor at four DreamWrights summer camps. She explains, “I’ve been looking at colleges but I had no idea what I wanted to go into. Now I have a better idea.” Never having worked in a classroom before, Meredith confirmed her interest in teaching and theatre and recently has narrowed her college search to schools offering theatre arts and either early education, music education, and/or museum studies.

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Meredith remembers, “I liked working with the kids. It was a lot of fun. I had a good experience doing stuff with them.” DreamWrights’ Summer Camp Coordinator, Hannah Kohler recognizes that she has a knack for working with younger kids in a theater environment, “I was very impressed with her work ethic. She is very proactive and I could always count on her to ask about the next thing. At times I have to tell her to go home.”

Calm and effective, Meredith was exposed to a variety of age ranges of campers. She loved that she could really see a difference in the campers from the time they arrived on the first day to when they performed on the last. “When I was working with the really little kids, there was this one girl who was so shy she didn’t want to talk to anyone. She was crying the first day when her mother dropped her off. But then on the last day she actually got up on stage to do her thing. I was so proud of her. “

DreamWrights is lucky Meredith decided to spend so much of her summer at the theatre. The only regret she has now is having more time during the school year to participate at DreamWrights. “That’s the one thing I regret about my busy schedule. If I had the opportunity to, I definitely would do more.”

Making Dreams Come True

Thirteen year old Dream Scholar, Bianca G., says that the motto at DreamWrights is true. “DreamWrights is a place where dreams do come true. I never thought that I would be in a performing arts program or that I might ever see a live performance.” But this summer, both of these dreams came true for this hard working young lady.

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The first week of summer camps, Bianca helped out as a teen counselor for two mini musicals, Pajama Party and Dinostars. Although very quiet and reserved, Bianca’s passion for theatre soon became very apparent. She was diligent in her counselor duties, she loved working with the younger kids, and she soaked up every bit of theatre experience she was exposed to that week. Bianca says, “I loved contributing and helping the younger kids because I could memorize their choreography and help them.” She took the initiative to work with some of the kids, providing them some extra coaching, when the Teaching Artist was busy with other campers.

During her down time, Bianca loved looking at the photo displays of actors and prior DreamWrights performances. She had never seen a live show before and when she realized that the musical, Legally Blonde was opening at the end of the week, she began to save towards the cost of a ticket. Summer Camp Coordinator, Hannah Kohler, remembers, “She would give me updates every day. ‘Last night I did this for five dollars and today I’m doing this for a dollar so I can earn enough money to buy a ticket to see Legally Blonde.’ She was determined to see the show.”

And she did. She was there in the fifth row on opening night. She loved it. When the show was over she patiently waited for every actor’s signature on her program. She said she would treasure that program forever. Bianca remembers, “I was in my seat and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I liked all the songs. I sang them when I went home. Literally I was talking about it all week the week after. I pulled up the Broadway version on YouTube and watched it a million times.”

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A few weeks later it was time for Bianca to come back to DreamWrights as a camp participant. She couldn’t wait. It was not a surprise that she chose to attend Broadway week. “I picked Broadway Week because I really like musicals and I think that maybe if I got to learn songs I could practice and that way when I get more successful I might be somewhere probably on Broadway or in a different show somewhere else.” Sure enough, during the week she learned many songs and even worked on a few solos. Bianca said Freak Flag from Shrek was her favorite.

On the eve of her Broadway camp performance, Bianca was full of anticipation. “I can’t wait to perform tomorrow because I’m going to be up there and a lot of people in my group always are cheering me on and we always have a laugh together and it is really fun. It is going to be sad tomorrow because the friends I made this week are really amazing.”

When asked about what she learned at DreamWrights, Bianca says, “The number one lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t have to be scared while singing up on stage because I know that the people I’m singing with really won’t judge me. We don’t judge anybody here because everyone is perfect in their own way.”

Bianca says she enjoys performance arts whether she’s onstage, back stage, or in the audience. She says she loves it “as long as I feel like I’m a part of it. Even in the audience you’re a part of it. Because you’re making people feel good about themselves when you sit there and watch them and when you cheer for them. Either way, when I’m backstage helping with lights or whatever it doesn’t really matter because I know that I’m a part of the solution.” But the most important part is to have fun and to let people know who you are. “Because you never know, maybe that person might star somewhere. Maybe their name might be heard somewhere, even if it is just something little. It is something that could influence other people.”

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We fully expect to see Bianca’s name in lights someday.

About Bianca G.: Bianca is a middle schooler at Helen Thackston Charter School. She wants to be a comic when she grows up. She loves musicals and comedies and likes to make people laugh without hurting their feelings. She says the best part about DreamWrights is the people. Next month, Bianca will be moving with her mother and two younger sisters. She is hoping to continue to develop her talent at a place like DreamWrights in her new town.

A Place for All

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Stauch’s granddaughter during a Seussical rehearsal…

For 70 year old Jim Stauch, DreamWrights means opportunities for his granddaughters. One loved the theatre from a young age and fit right in. The other was more reticent because she is on the autism spectrum. “DreamWrights has given her the opportunity to assimilate into mainstream activities,” Jim explains. “The people at DreamWrights treat her like a normal child. They don’t do anything special. But she has the opportunity to express herself.” DreamWrights gives both of these girls – as well as everybody – the opportunity to get involved and express themselves.

Jim is astounded at the growth he’s seen in his granddaughter as a result of the opportunities she’s experienced at DreamWrights. He says the transformation is remarkable. “From being withdrawn with the rest of the family to now with her confidence to be on stage, to recite poems, from the traveling show to a main production, it’s… wow, it’s just awesome.”

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…and helping out as a teen camp counselor

Jim knows better than anyone the value of the DreamWrights experience. “DreamWrights is here for everybody, regardless of disabilities and handicaps. It’s here for the youngest, for the oldest. It’s all inclusive to everybody. You can feel at home here. You can learn. Any investment in DreamWrights is an investment in the community. It’s a place where kids can come, express themselves, stay out of trouble, and do more than just play on computers.”

Thanks, Jim, for bravely sharing your story with us. We applaud your granddaughter’s successes and look forward to seeing her participate in her next production!

Growing Stronger Together and Individually at DreamWrights

In today’s culture, families with young kids are pulled in many directions. Soccer, lacrosse, dance, cheerleading – you name it. Then add in the distraction of smart phones, YouTube, gaming systems, and Minecraft. You’re left with families who spend very little time being together, working together, creating together, and growing together.

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Ruffatto Family

But if your family is involved at DreamWrights, you know that this center for community arts is an antidote to our culture’s fractured family time.  The Ruffatto family has experienced this first hand. Forty-seven year old dad, Steve Ruffatto is a retired police officer. Currently, he is a professor of Criminal Justice for the Harrisburg Area Community College an adjunct professor for Elizabethtown College and Boston University.  Like many families, Steve is busy with his career and together with his wife, Jennifer, is focused on raising their two kids, Callie (14) and Steven, Jr. (12).  Steve relates, “In today’s society it seems that there are many things pushing and pulling each of us in different directions. DreamWrights has been something that we, as a family, have been able to do together.” Steve says that every DreamWrights production in which he and his family have participated has given them the opportunity to spend invaluable, quality time together.

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Steve (left) helping with set building

And as a result of their working together at DreamWrights towards a common goal, they have been given the opportunity to learn about the various roles within the theatre. “It is not all about acting. There are so many things going on behind the scenes. We have all really come to enjoy learning those various roles together.”

Not only that, but the Ruffatto family’s skills and stage presence are growing.  Steve reveals, “DreamWrights has certainly helped each of us develop confidence. Being on stage in front of a group of strangers, having to remember your lines, can be quite daunting.” Steve believes that his family’s DreamWrights experience has given each of them the confidence to get up on stage and overcome their fear of speaking and performing in front of a crowd.  “I also think that through DreamWrights our children have developed confidence in dealing with their peers as well as adults. They have felt comfortable enough to be able to speak up and ask questions to better understand what they are doing.”

Steven Jr. in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

It is the relationships they have built with these peers and adults that keep them coming back. “We have made some great connections at DreamWrights. DreamWrights is like an extended family. We have come to love all the people that are involved as they are just as passionate about the theater as we are. It is a place where we, as a family, can be involved in activity together. It is a place that helps build confidence in our children and teaches life skills without them even realizing it. All this is done while they are having fun performing, building sets, or the many other activities behind the scenes.”

Callie (center) in The Secret Garden

You, too, can make stronger family connections at DreamWrights.  Get involved at DreamWrights today and join the Ruffatto family making new friends, learning new skills, and most importantly, spending some quality family time together!

Stuffed with Love

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(left to right) Pauline Kucinsky, Betty Thomas, Phyllis Reeling

Every quarter when DreamWrights issues its newsletter, it is not the DreamWrights staff who prepares the mailing, but rather a small group of unsung spritely volunteers that zoom in to DreamWrights to fold, stuff, and stamp. Meet “Pauline’s Group.” 88 year old Pauline Kucinsky organizes a group of ladies that provide a wonderful service to local non-profit groups, while catching up with each other.

But it didn’t begin with Pauline. It began with Eloise in 1996. Eloise had the idea to get some friends together and make themselves helpful to the non-profits. They were informally known at “Eloise’s Angels” and provided this service to any non-profit who asked: York County Libraries, the Literacy Council, York Little Theatre, Margaret Moul Home, and DreamWrights, to name a few. Pauline says, “Mention a nonprofit and we’ve been there!” Soon Eloise’s initial 4 helpers grew to around 20. They were stuffing up to 5000 letters every couple of months. Eloise operated her group through the 1990s but when Eloise became ill, Pauline, who was already a part of the group, took over.

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“I was always with people and I had to do something,” says Pauline who likes to keep busy. She started by calling the United Way and asked if they needed help. They said they could use assistance with a bulk mailing. “I said I don’t know what that is but I’ll do it!”

The group has shrunk to about 7 due to aging issues of the group (eyesight, driving challenges, Alzheimers, etc.) as well as email and computers replacing traditional mail. Many of the groups former “clients” have moved to mailing houses over the years. But on this particular day at DreamWrights, Pauline is joined by Betty Thomas, almost 80, and Phyllis Reeling, 82, who have been active with the group for 8 and 10 years respectively. “There were times when we had something to do every day,” recalls Betty.

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These ladies chat and catch up with each other while they work. You can overhear them comparing notes on their grandchildren’s latest activities and asking about mutual friends. They say the best part about the work is getting together and the friendships they’ve cultivated. Betty explains, “I really like helping somebody and doing something worthwhile.” Phyllis adds, “We have a special group. We really enjoy it. We really do.”

So next time you open your DreamWrights quarterly newsletter, know that it was folded, stuffed, and stamped with love by Pauline and her “gang.”

She Came with her Grandkids but Stayed for Herself

Connie Shorb’s first introduction to DreamWrights was when her granddaughter enrolled in one of the summer camps. Connie remembers, “She just had a wonderful time. Of course, we came to see the performance. I was very impressed with how happy the kids were, what they were learning, how the staff handled them, and how they came back excited about what they were doing.” Connie says that it became very obvious early on that her granddaughter, Megan, was enjoying herself and that more summer camps and acting opportunities were going to be in her future.

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Megan participated in a Broadway camp. Her brother, JR, enrolled too, and was cast as a spoon. Connie says for Megan being on stage came naturally, “Megan likes to perform. This gives her an opportunity to blossom.”  Connie laughs, “But JR wasn’t quite sure if a spoon was something he wanted to be doing. But, Megan explained it was a pivotal role.” JR ultimately grew into his role as a spoon and liked it so much he returned to a Dinosaur Creativity Camp.

As Connie has come to several performances to see and support Megan and JR, she’s gotten to know DreamWrights and its values. “I’m impressed with the vision about what they’re trying to accomplish. I like the outreach to the community. I would hope that in the future that DW would be able to do things with some of the other arts groups in town.” Having an art background herself, Connie recognizes the opportunity that DreamWrights can offer the community both on and off the stage. “Bring the kids in, teach them set design. Hopefully these kids will take this back to their high schools and middle schools.”

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Her grandkids on stage might be what brought Connie in, but it is the art that keeps her coming back. Formally educated with a degree in fine arts from Rollins College, Connie has had a love for art since she was a little kid. Even when the responsibilities of raising a family set in, Connie always kept herself engaged in art by building the Art Goes to School program at Indian Rock Elementary and providing what would now be considered rudimentary (only 4 colors at a time – hey – it was the 80s!) computer graphics for a local software house. But now, as Connie has more free time, she’s trying to get back to her artwork. As a step towards this goal, she’s decided to give set painting a try. “This is another venue. It is a different kind of art work.  I’m hoping to learn a little about this as well. It’s fun to see how they put it all together. Trying to work in a totally different area is a challenge.” She’s not working 12 inches away like she’s used to. She’s working on a much grander scale with set design. To speak with Connie, you can tell that she’s enjoying the challenge to her art skill to work in this setting.

Connie has also been impressed by all of the volunteers’ time and dedication. “When I was working yesterday, there were a lot of young people that came in and they were doing all sorts of things, and not necessarily in front in the spotlights. I was impressed with how Bob [McCleary] worked with them.  Everybody had something to do. Bob was guiding them, letting them do their own thing, but also keeping an eye on what was being done. Everybody was being part of the whole. I was impressed with everybody’s attitude and level of cooperation.” Connie believes the secret to this success is the competent supervision. “In just the little time I’ve been here, people know what they’re doing. They do a good job with it. Frankly, if they weren’t you wouldn’t see the success in productions that they have.”

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From Connie’s unique perspective, she is especially excited about DreamWrights’ capital campaign. “I think having a better setting for all of this is definitely a positive. You know, it’s an old building and things need to be brought up to code. That’s going to be a benefit.” As far as what the DreamWrights experience brings to budding actors and actresses like her granddaughter, “What Megan learns here gives her confidence to participate in talent shows and perform at school. Just the basic life skill of being confident and speaking in front of a group is something that’s going to carry on for a life time.”

Being on stage is great, but it isn’t for everyone. It might be for Megan but it wouldn’t have been for Connie. “My dad introduced me to golf. It is something you can do on your own. As is art. You don’t have to have a crowd. I guess it goes with what I was comfortable doing. Not everybody can be captain of the football team. As time goes on you kind of figure out what you are good at and what you want to do.” DreamWrights gives people of all ages the opportunity to do this.

Growing Leaders

One great thing about DreamWrights is the opportunity it gives for leadership. DreamWrights is bubbling over with opportunities for personal growth. One example of this is found in our current and former teen board leaders.

DreamWrights began in 1997 and from the start, children, teens and adults of varying backgrounds and experiences were engaged from the grass roots, shoulder to shoulder, building, learning, and experimenting. As the board of directors of DreamWrights was formally organized that year, it seemed obvious to include three teens in addition to the 14 adults that would serve.

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Alex Bitzer graduating from Stevenson University in 2016

The teens provided a voice that was respected and encouraged. Alex Bitzer (teen board member in 2010) agrees, “Everyone brings something to the table that will help the board. Your field of expertise and previous experience will be helpful to the board, whatever it is.” Taylor Slusser’s (2011) experience was similar. “There were many times that the other members looked to us for insight on how they could reach out to our age group and what the best social media platform for that would be.”

Being on the board expanded the horizons of the teens as well. It gave them a broader perspective and greater appreciation for running a business. Carter Anstine (2014) remembers, “Being on the board taught me that there are many things that make up an organization and that it’s like a puzzle, the organization is trying to fit the pieces together to make it run as smoothly and successfully as possible.”

Joseph Nabholz (2003) elaborates, “It was a continuation of all of the other work that we did at the theater.  We talk a lot in the theater about the importance of all the preparatory and backstage work that is “unseen” to mount a show.  Being on the board was the backstage to the backstage, so to say.  It taught me, implicitly, how enterprises exist in the world.  It also prepared for me the various hiring committees that I sat on through college, school faculty meetings where I work, and other types of clubs I’ve been affiliated ever since.”

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Taylor Slusser (right) with fellow teen board members in 2011

Sarah Hricik (2001) says that her board position gave her the opportunity to see how a board functioned, and how adults intelligently discussed a variety of issues.  “The biggest thing I learned was the importance of presenting the benefits of an idea.  Other people will help to find the flaws-they’ll also help you to sort them out and strengthen the plan, especially if they’re DreamWrights people-but the best ideas begin from a positive place.”

As far as the board experience preparing these young people for future endeavors, Sarah relates, “There are many times, even today, when I sit down at a big table with several people who are older and wiser than me.  It can be intimidating!  Serving on the board helped me to find my voice and approach these situations with confidence.  Even when I’m the least knowledgeable person in the room, there are still ways that I can contribute.  It’s been particularly helpful for job interviews!”

Alex was encouraged by his experience, “It is definitely worthwhile because you get to help DreamWrights in a new way. You can learn things about the organization you never knew even after years of volunteering. If you’re worried that you might not be able to handle it all, remember that you have an excellent group serving with you. Fellow board members can always help out or answer questions.”

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Taylor Slusser Photography

Taylor, who now runs her own business, also discovered her inner leadership skills as a teen board member. “Being a member of the board as a teen, gives you a sense of leadership and responsibility in the community that you’re a part of and I feel like these skills are still very much important in my life now. I just graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Kutztown University with a concentration in Photography and I plan to have my own Photo Studio Business that I’ve been building for a while now.” With running her own business, Taylor says that since she doesn’t have anyone telling her what to do, she relies on those leadership and responsibility skills that she learned years ago at DreamWrights. She also pays it forward. “I’m constantly focused on reaching out to the community around me to make a difference in our town.”

Wow. These kids (turned young adults) are impressive! Bravo to Taylor, Alex, Joseph, Carter, Sarah, and all of our current and former teen board members! DreamWrights is honored and fortunate to have your participation. We greatly value your voice.

If you are interested in participating as a teen board member, please contact Executive Director, Ann Davis at annd@dreamwrights.org.