2022 Scholarship Winner Interviews

Dare to Dream Scholarship Winners  Interview Q/A 2022

Interview by Alumni President – Joshua Trotter ‘14

2022 Scholarship Winners: 

Ciara Lukemire ‘22 – Liberty University – Biblical Studies

Abigail Irons ‘22 – University of Cincinnati (DAAP) – Architecture

Alia Dalton ‘22- Wright State University – Dance/Deaf Studies

Dionne Parker ‘22- Grambling State University – Nursing

Sarah Opoku ‘22 – Northwestern University – Chemistry

Elena Theirback ‘22 – Pratt Institute – Film

Marcia Gause ‘22- University of Cincinnati – Psychology

Kylia Shearer ‘22- East Carolina University – Dance/Business

This scholarship was only made possible by the generosity of our Dues-paying Alumni Membership and other supportive donations we were able to award our 2022 winners with a total of $5,000!

You can help support the goals of a member of the Class of 2023!

When you become a dues-paying member of the SCPA Alumni Association not only are you supporting our association, you are personally donating to the future of an SCPA senior through a needed scholarship! 

Click Here To Become A Member of the Association


Alumni President Joshua Trotter ’14 got to sit down with the 2022 Dare to Dream Scholarship Recipients to talk about their experiences at SCPA and what they will take with them on their paths into college and beyond! All Senior Year pictures in this article have been provided by the winners/NAAcSCPA.

Dionne Parker backstage at Class of 2022 Graduation

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, When did you first start attending SCPA, and what was your major? 

Dionne: Well, my name is Dionne Parker. I am a 2022 graduate of SCPA. I majored in Vocal Music and Technical Theater. I also started attending SCPA in Kindergarten, when it was still SHEIL Primary School for the Arts in Clifton. Since I’ve spent 13 years at SCPA, I am considered a “Legend.”

Ciara: My name is Ciara Lukemire. I started attending SCPA in the 9th grade and Majored in Creative Writing. I came from an out-of-district school, thinking I wouldn’t make it in, but I did! 

Elena: I’m Elena. I first started attending SCPA in the 8th grade, and my major has always been Visual Arts.

Alia: I am Alia Dalton. I am a “survivor” I’ve been at SCPA since 4th grade, and I was a Dance Major.                         

Sarah: My name is Sarah. I have majored in Drama for the past three years. I started SCPA as a sophomore. 

Marcia: I am Marcia Gause. I started attending SCPA in Kindergarten, so I am a Legend! I also majored in Drama.

Kylia: I’m Kylia, and I’m a dancer. I came to SCPA in the 6th grade.

Abigail: I’m Abigail Irons, and I started going to SCPA in the 7th grade. I majored in Visual Arts.


Sarah and fellow seniors rocking their college T-Shirts on the newly painted SCPA Playground!

Q: What originally got you interested in the arts? 

Dionne: When I was younger, I remember singing all the time in my little cat heels, trying to be like Beyonce! Then I auditioned for the 4th grade and got into all of the majors I wanted, but I stuck with Vocal and Tech. 

Ciara: In the 5th grade, I entered a writing competition and wrote a creative story about Minions. That was the first time a teacher pulled me aside and told me I had a gift.

Elena: As a kid, I was always doodling. It became a major outlet for me. Eventually, it became something that I did all the time. Then I heard about auditions for SCPA, and that became my focus. 

Alia: I started my dance journey at a competitive dance studio. My friend brought me in and exposed me to many different dance styles. I didn’t know that there were so many types of dance, and being there confirmed that I wanted to dance.  

Senior Selfies!

Sarah: Growing up, I’ve always been in advanced classes and was enrolled in science camps over the summer. During that time, I also developed an intense love for theatre. In my first play, I was cast as a card in Alice in Wonderland but didn’t get to be in it because we moved. My freshman year was my first time in a musical. That was the first time I’d been a part of such a big production, so it only pushed me to love the arts more!

Marcia: Well, I’ve always wanted to be Hannah Montana! I grew up watching the Disney channel, so I always sang or danced around the house. It’s not like I told myself I would be an actress or a singer; my mom saw something in me and decided to send me to a performing arts school. So really, she’s the one who threw me into the art world of SCPA. 

Abigail: I think art has always been a part of my life. There was never really a moment where there was a spark and something clicked. I believe that ever since I was able to have mobility in my hand, I’ve done art. 

Kylia: My parents put me in everything, but dance is the main thing that stuck. I danced at a studio since I was two years old, and I came to SCPA so I could dance during the day as well. 


Ciara and her Creative Writing Teacher and Fellow Alumna Dr.Sarr

Q: Is there a teacher at SCPA (Academic or in the arts) that pushed you or challenged you in any way? 

Dionne: Ms.Wyant pushed me to keep auditioning for baby grands, and I’m a better singer and person because of it. She did push me. Baby Grands was big for me because it was one of the school’s top vocal groups. As a senior, I became the leader, and we wanted to keep Ms.Wyants legacy going strong.

Ciara: Dr.Sarr has been incredibly supportive, especially during the pandemic. She has sat with me and helped me with my writing, but also she’s taken the time to understand who I am and some of my traits.

Elena: Ms.Young helped me. I struggled freshman year, and if it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would be the person or artist I am today. As someone who creates art, she did what she had to do to make me serious about what I wanted and where I wanted to go. 

Alia: All of my Dance teachers from 4th grade through senior year impacted me. They helped build my confidence and pushed me to strive for my best every time I danced. 

Sarah: I think Mr.Norman sparked my love for chemistry. I had him all three years at SCPA because I was in Honors Chemistry and AP Chemistry, and I student-taught his regular chemistry class. If you had asked me four years ago that I’d be going into any science field, I would have told you absolutely not. I just think through his class, he taught beyond the textbook and showed us TED Talks and modern discoveries giving us hands-on, real-world experiences. Plus, he pushed me because I wasn’t always the most “on top of things” student, but he always believed in me. 

Marcia: I had an IEP (Individualized Education Program). So all of my IEP teachers like Ms.Booker, Ms.Lees, and Ms.Bruce all pushed me and told me I could be better. They encouraged me and told me that my IEP wouldn’t stop me from doing what I wanted, which meant a lot. 

Kylia: My dance teachers, Mr.Bajoza, Ms.Swinehart, and Ms.Rozow, pushed me in my technique. Coming from other outside studios, I was just kind of dancing for fun, and they tightened me up and improved my dancing all around.

Abigail: Ms.Young (Visual Art), Mr.Rizzo (Anatomy), and Mr.Lewis (AP Government)! Ms.Young pushed me to explore other mediums of art. Sculpture was one of the mediums she encouraged me to do that was challenging. Mr.Rizzo always taught us life lessons from his former students who would email in about their success or downfalls, and we’d be able to learn through that. Mr.Lewis just taught me to look at the world differently and show us different things in the news, and the news confused me because before I took his class, I didn’t realize how little I knew about how the government worked. 


Alia as the Sugar Plum Fairy in SCPA’s The Nutcracker

Q: In your opinion, what was the most amazing thing about going to SCPA? 

Dionne: You can find where you belong. Again, I’ve been going to SCPA since kindergarten. You can see the people you know and grew up with evolve and change. Another thing would have to be all of the opportunities to give back. I was able to be a student aide for my 3rd-grade teacher Ms. Quinones, and that was such a great experience because she was there for me in 3rd grade, and now I could be there for the new 3rd graders. 

Ciara: Having professional guest speakers in creative writing class comes to talk to the next generation of writers about how they made their passion into a career. Having those conversations about contracts, salaries, and what they did on a daily basis was extremely helpful, and being able to be vulnerable with other experienced writers was something I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Elena: I think it was just being around everyone else, who were all so talented. I can’t wait to see what my peers do in the future. Being around that creative energy all the time was really beneficial to me to have been in that environment. 

Alia: Being able to do what you love while in high school is pretty awesome! It’s kind of like a mini college, even though you get to go home afterward. Also, how accepting SCPA was. Every time I walked into that school, I knew it felt like a safe environment. There was always space to be me and connect with my art. 

Sarah: Honestly, the student body. So many people in my class did so many amazing things in school while also being vocal through protests, and the pandemic made me appreciate those around me. I grew up in a predominantly white school district and didn’t know much about the world, and I think SCPA made me more open-minded. I think SCPA just taught me how to respect myself and how to respect others. 

Marcia: I would say it’s way different than other schools. I’d talk to cousins and friends who attended other schools and think, “Wow, your school is so boring.” SCPA is definitely not boring. It’s unique and accepts all people! I couldn’t see myself at any other school because the things I did at SCPA could have gotten me bullied at other schools. I am glad I was accepted for who I was at SCPA.

Seniors Hard at Work…Or Hardly Working..

Abigail: The diversity and how open and friendly everyone is! I felt like I could go up to anyone in my class and talk to them about something. It’s also nice to see people of all races, backgrounds, and talents come together. 

Kylia: I would say being surrounded by people with the same interests as you. At a normal high school, you won’t find many people who dedicate their lives to an art form, who know the struggles of academics on top of it, and late-night rehearsals for shows and things. I was always surrounded by people who just got it which made it easier for me to feel like people understood what I was going through because we were all going through those same things! 


Abigail and Marcia hit the slopes!

Q: Is there a really funny memory you have from your time at SCPA you’d like to share?

Dionne: I remember when my class was younger, they’d always take us to a showing of The Nutcracker. I remember we were so loud and didn’t stop clapping between acts. Mr.Owens held us all back and banned us from seeing shows for a year. We were salty for sure, but we learned our lesson.

Ciara: Andy Grammer came to our school to perform and answer questions of the student body, and one student asked him if he’d go to prom with them! 

Elena: I don’t think there’s a funny moment in particular, but my french class was pretty entertaining.

Alia: I was in Swan Lake, and I was playing the role of the Spanish dancer. There was an in-school performance, and all my friends were there, and my skirt flew straight off! Luckily, I had things on underneath, but I had to keep dancing in character until another dancer threw the skirt off stage and ran off stage in character. I was laughing through it but was heavily embarrassed, and looking back on it makes it really funny!

All Smiles as seniors receive their Alumni T-Shirts

Sarah: I have two! In English class sophomore year, I was paired up with people I didn’t know, and we had to perform Shakespeare with a twist. We did a whole rap show with dance, and watching all of us on stage rapping Shakespeare was awesome! A more recent memory was in Drama Ensemble; we were doing a show called the hexagon collection, shows written by the creative writing department. In one of our shows, my friend Justin forgot his prop gun, so we had to continue acting on stage with his finger gun, and it was so hard not to break character. 

Marcia: I spent a lot of my lunchtime showing my age, just having fun. As a freshman, I thought I was everything, and the seniors humbled me quickly! It was funny that I thought just being in high school put me at the top because I had been at SCPA for so long, but still, I had a long way to go. 

Abigail: Mr.Rizzo had just gotten surgery, and his back was hurting, and he called Mr.Lewis into the room to crack his back. Suddenly, Mr.Lewis is standing on Mr. Rizzo’s back, and Mr.Rizzo is giving an anatomy lesson on the floor under Mr.Lewis about what’s happening to his back! 

Kylia: When the invisibility challenge was a thing, it was where you had to convince someone they were invisible. We tried to do it to Mr.Bajoza, and it didn’t work.


Elena and Friend at Graduation!

Q: How did you feel when you learned you won the Alumni Associations Dare to Dream Scholarship? 

Dionne: I was just overwhelmed with joy and emotion. I was like, “I won a scholarship!” The financial burden of school can be a lot, so this helps! I feel so blessed.

Ciara: I literally dropped my phone! I was so excited because this is something that will help support me to do what I’ve always wanted to do. Plus, the acknowledgment that I have people who decided to donate to that is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world!

Elena: I was very happy and was proud of myself for sure. I was a little scared before I found out because I think with essays, you want to try not to be clichè or way too personal, but still personal enough. Overall, I’m glad I won.

Alia: At the moment, I was in my room on my phone when I got the news! All I could do was scream. Both of my parents thought something terrible had happened. Overall, I felt really proud of myself and everything I’ve been able to accomplish at SCPA! Getting the scholarship helps me reflect on my time there, which adds to my great memories. 

New Dress Who Dis?

Sarah: I felt so good! I was in the middle of homework on campus when I learned I had won. So I took a break and called my mom! It felt really amazing because I don’t go to a school that provides a lot of funding for incoming students. Still, I think because of COVID-19, I didn’t feel capable of writing a good essay and winning the scholarship just confirmed that I can do this and I will be okay. 

Marcia: I found out I won at a work event. I was scrolling through my email and saw that I’d won! I was so happy, but I couldn’t really celebrate how I wanted to because I was at work. I am very honored! 

Abigail: I was surprised just because a lot of other people are so talented and better at conveying emotions on paper. I feel like I’m much better artistically, but pen and paper have always been hard. I’m so happy I took a jab at it because I didn’t want to lose out on an opportunity! 

Kylia: I was super excited because college is expensive, and being able to help myself and my parents pay for student loans is very important to me. 


Kylia as Arabian Dancer in SCPA’s The Nutcracker

Q: What are your current post-SCPA plans, and what led you to that decision?

Dionne: My post-SCPA plans are to attend Grambling State University for Nursing in Louisiana! I chose this path because it’s an HBCU, and I’ve always felt called to Nursing. Every woman I’ve talked to who has given birth remembers their Nurse, and I just want to be that helpful and leave a lasting impression on someone’s life. Plus, I love children! 

Ciara: I went back and forth and wasn’t sure until the last six months. During the pandemic, I was able to sit and figure out what I wanted to do. During that time, I found my faith and decided to go to Liberty University for Counseling and Biblical Studies! I have the opportunity to go and speak at conferences and stadiums coming up soon. 

Elena: I’m going to go to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, for film. All I’ve wanted to do throughout high school was to move to new york and pursue film! I’m really excited to be able to live my dream. 

Alia: I plan to go to Wright State University for Dance. I also want to minor in ASL or Deaf Studies because I’m half deaf, and I feel like ASL is an art form all its own. 

Officially an SCPA Alumni!

Sarah: I am going to Northwestern University for a major in Chemistry. I did a diversity in science program on the Northwestern campus over the summer. 

Marcia: I am going to UC for psychology. I will still be pursuing the arts on my own time, but I want to enter the world of psychology because I want to be a therapist. 

Abigail: I plan to go to the University of Cincinnati and Majoring in Architecture in the DAAP Program! I think Architecture is for me because I’m meticulous in art and clean-cut. It also has a 3D element to it, and that’s something I learned at SCPA. Also, over the summer, I went to nail school, and it’s been a hobby of mine since 7th grade!

Kylia: I’m going to continue dancing at East Carolina University. I also was accepted into the universities honors college. I plan to double major in both Dance and Business. 


Alia and friends on Graduation Day!

Q: How will the support of this scholarship help in your next steps in life? 

Ciara: This scholarship is going to support me so much in being able to do something I love! To know that this is going towards something that will change the rest of my life because of people’s generosity. 

Elena: Oh my goodness, I don’t even want to think about my tuition now! However, any financial help I can get from this scholarship will help relieve some of the stress from college costs. I’m very grateful for that. 

Alia: It will help my family financially because we’ve all been through our share of hard times. It will help me continue to do what I love: dance!

Marcia: I don’t have a lot of money, so I have to try hard to get scholarships to cover school costs. While I’ve received money for school, it’s not enough to cover everything, and this scholarship will help me get steady on campus. 

Abigail: It will help financially because college isn’t cheap! I want the college experience so that I will study on campus for at least one year, and I think this scholarship will help pay for that. 


Dionne showing off her Senior Yard Sign and Cap & Gown!

Q: What is something you learned at SCPA that you think will help you move forward?  

Dionne: I learned to ask questions and ask for help. There’s no fun in being stuck and not asking for help. I remember being in 7th grade, afraid to ask questions, but you never know if your question could be someone else question, and they got the answer because of you! If you don’t understand something, seek the answers because no one else will do it for you.

Ciara: I think I learned not to sacrifice the freedom of finding yourself for fitting in. I feel like when we don’t make a sacrifice for what we want, what we want becomes that sacrifice.

Elena: This is going to sound general but growing up around the people I grew up with and the experiences I had at SCPA will help me as I go off to college.

Sarah: Supporting other people, especially because things can start to get competitive in college. I think being at SCPA, being in drama ensemble, and being close with everyone in my classes have taught me how to take care of myself and others. Even though we are all competing for the same roles doesn’t mean you have to be cold towards someone else. You can support them and encourage them, and when it’s your time to shine, they can do the same for you. 

Is this virtual learning?

Marcia: I learned not to be judgemental. At SCPA, I was introduced to many different people who taught me to be accepting and open. It helped me look at myself and others in a new way and find similarities between us, as opposed to what makes us different. 

Abigail: I would say how to manage your time. You need time for your arts, you need time for your academics, but you also need time for yourself. Personal time is so important. If all you do is work, you will burn out and start resenting things you like. Taking a break is needed. 

Kylia: It’s okay not always to be the best in the room. So many talented people surrounded me, inspiring me to be better! I never want to be a big fish in a small pond, and I just want to focus on my splash! 


Backstage at Graduation!

Q: Last Question, If you could leave any advice for the Rising Senior Class of 2023, What advice would you give them when it comes to being an SCPA Senior? 

Ciara: Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. I think that If I was never uncomfortable in the situations, I was faced with, I would have never realized that the purpose of life is to grow.

Dionne: To the rising seniors, take pride in being at SCPA. It’s definitely an experience that other CPS schools don’t have. Every school has its thing, but no other school does the arts like SCPA. So take pride and make your high school experience your own. If you don’t like something or want to see something change, you have to lead by example and be the change you want to see in your school. 

Girl Gang!


Elena: Don’t slack off during your senior year. Senior slump is real, but if you do what I did and work really hard your senior year, you will reap the benefits later!

Alia: I would advise you to finish strong and give your best throughout the year! Senior Stress is real and will kick in. Don’t let that stop you; keep pushing because you’re so close to the finish line! 

Sarah: My biggest advice is don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Spread things out and check in with yourself and your mental health. If there’s something that you can put a pause on, to clear up and focus on something else, do it. Also, remember to support your peers because you all are going through the same thing, and remember you are not alone! 

The SCPA Class of 2022

Marcia: Being early is better than being on time or late. Being early shows that you have your stuff together and have less to worry about. Be early with college admissions, essay writing, scholarship applications, and homework. Be early for everything because it will benefit you in the end but also don’t rush yourself, and take your time. 

Abigail: I am going to quote former SCPA Artistic Director Angela Powell-Walker. She told the MALITA (Making a Living in The Arts) program, “Don’t burn a bridge before you’ve crossed it,” Meaning to take every opportunity extended to you because you’d rather feel disappointment for not getting something than regret for not trying at all. 

Kylia: I have a lot of friends in this class, so this is fun! Don’t take your senior year for granted. Try to be happy and savor these last few moments as much as you can. Your senior year is something our parents reflect on even today, so we will do the same!


A sincere thank you goes to all of this year’s scholarship winners for sharing their stories with us! We’d also like to thank all of the class of 2022 scholarship applicants for having the largest amount of applicants thus far!

To donate to our scholarship for the SCPA class of 2023 and beyond click here to find out more information. Donations

Stay Tuned for Video Versions of these scholarship interviews… Coming soon!