Dare to Dream Scholarship Winners Interview Q/A 2023
Interview by Alumni President – Joshua Trotter ‘14
2023 Scholarship Winners:
Claire Xu ‘23 – The Ohio State University – Statistics
Tristalynne Mullenix ‘23 – Point Park University – Dance
Raymia Jones Fowler ‘23 – Columbia College Chicago – Film/Acting
Ruby Kolik ‘23- University of Pittsburgh – Communication Rhetoric
Hannah Adams ‘23 – Marymount Manhattan College – Musical Theater
Cristina Bates ‘23 – Indiana University: Jacobs School of Music – Vocal/Opera Performance
The 2023 Dare to Dream Scholarship is made possible through donations and the annual support of our members.
Their generous contributions raised the $4,000 we awarded this year.
THANK YOU, SCPA ALUMNI FAMILY!
You can help support the goals of a member of the Class of 2024 & Beyond!
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!
Alumni President Joshua Trotter ’14 got to sit down with the 2023 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 to the NAAcSCPA.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself – who you are, when did you first start attending SCPA, and what your major was?
Raymia: My name is Raymia Jones Fowler, I first started attending SCPA in the 8th grade, and I was a Drama Major.
Ruby: I’m Ruby Kolik, I started going to SCPA in the 6th grade. Prior to SCPA, I went to a suburban public school in Milford. My older brother Jonah graduated from SCPA in 2020, and had been going to SCPA for a year at that point for visual art. I originally got into SCPA for visual art and instrumental music, but I switched my major freshman year to Creative Writing.
Claire: My name is Claire Xu. I attended SCPA starting in the 7th grade and my major was Visual Art.
Trista: I am Trista Mullenix, I started attending SCPA in the 6th grade and my major was Dance! People are always surprised that I don’t have any other majors or hobbies, but when you’re a dancer, you don’t have time for anything else.
Cristina: My name is Cristina Bates, and I started attending SCPA in the 3rd grade. My major was Vocal Music.
Hannah: I’m Hannah! I started attending SCPA my freshman year and I majored in Drama.
Q: What originally got you interested in the arts?
Raymia: I grew up watching Disney Channel! During that time, Black actresses like Zendaya and China Anne McClain where on there, and they really inspired me to go into acting. Overtime, that love developed into waiting to do film, producing, and directing. In fact, the summer prior to me attending SCPA, there was a summer film camp through the Underground Academy of Cinematic Arts that was held at the school. Even though we were doing very small scale films, the work really opened my eyes to the film industry and what I really want to do!
Ruby: I’m trying to think of where my love of reading and writing came from – all I can say is that it’s been in me since I was a kid. There was never one thing that pulled me toward the arts, it was always something I loved to do. I think it also may be genetic, because my brother attending SCPA for Visual Art really opened my mind to the possibility of being a part of an arts community like SCPA. Also, my grandfather was a writer for the Pentagon Newspaper during the Vietnam War, and I’ve read some of his writing and was inspired by that.
Claire: I loved to draw as a little kid. I spent most of my time drawing pictures because I like to get creative! One of my favorite hobbies was going to art museums, because the artwork I saw would fascinate me and further inspire me with artistic ideas. Art also helps me to learn, concentrate, and work patiently.
Trista: I was about two years old and my older sister used to take dance classes at a studio. The dance teacher told my parents that if they could get me potty trained, I could take dance classes. Mom got me trained, and I’ve been dancing since that day!
Cristina: Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved singing – it didn’t matter what genre I was singing! I was singing “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas like I was that girl. I started by attending Catholic school. I sang in church, and my mom is the one who really picked up on my singing ability at two years old. A friend of the family got me into singing at church and suggested I enroll for SCPA in the 3rd grade. I got in, and after my audition for 4th grade, I got accepted in Dance, Drama, and Vocal Music. I ended up choosing Dance and Vocal, and then eventually just Vocal. I’ve never been afraid to grab a microphone and sing – and I just kept singing! I’ve sung at concerts, weddings, funerals, you name it.
Hannah: When I was in the 3rd grade, my school put on a production of Annie. I got to play Miss. Hannigan at age 8, and ever since then, I knew I had to do this for the rest of my life. I became obsessed and went online and looked up musicals and soundtracks – that consumed my every thought.
Q: Is there a teacher at SCPA (academic or in the arts) that really pushed you or challenged you in any way?
Raymia: Of course – my Drama Teachers! Mr.Crowley was my first drama teacher at SCPA. He was also my Drama Ensemble teacher. He is definitely someone who pushed me and saw something in me that sometimes I couldn’t see within myself. He’s also an great actor himself, and just watching him work and be hands on with myself and others has helped me build my craft. My other Drama Teacher, Mr. Jones that I had my junior and senior year – I’d bother him all the time because of our shared last name. I’d call him my “Uncle, Cousin, Brother.” I dealt with depression at the beginning of my senior year, and he really pushed me to keep going and rediscover my passion and my drive that I had when I first started attending SCPA. It was a very hard time for me, but he was there to understand and help me through it. He was there for me, not only as a teacher, but a mentor who’s really going to give you the ‘real’. Those two men have been very amazing to me, and I hope to work with them in the future!
Ruby: I have had a lot of amazing teachers at SCPA, but the two that stick out in my brain from a writing perspective are Ms. Morgan – who taught me AP English Literature – and Dr. Sarr, my Creative Writing teacher. Ms. Morgan taught me language and composition, so it was very focused on rhetorical analysis, and the structure of writing, and how writers use words and argumentative styles to write different pieces. I think taking her class and having her as my teacher has shifted the way I read and write, because now when I read I breakdown the structure and how it was written, and I can appreciate it a lot more as art. I had Dr. Sarr from 8th grade to senior year, and she is by far the most influential teacher I’ve ever met. She was so meticulous about everything, and it made my work so much better. She was so smart, and everything she’d say about writing shifted my perspective on my own writing.
Claire: All of my art teachers, because they pushed me to put my all into my creations and designs. They helped me step out of my comfort zone and take more challenges in the arts. The other teacher who impacted me was Mr. Norman, my chemistry teacher. When I took AP Chemistry, he taught me “Greater challenges lead to greater rewards,” and that I should not give up easily – there will always be mistakes that I could later fix. Most importantly, he taught me “No pain, no gain.”
Trista: I will give him credit, but If he ever brings it up I’m going to deny it because that’s the relationship we have. Mr. Goodlett really challenged me, and he was always there for me. He would be there for me whenever I was feeling down – in the arts it can be hard sometimes, and you start to doubt yourself, but he was always by my side to let me know “everyone has something special,” and he would give me advice. He opened me up to a lot of different opportunities. He’s the reason I was in The Wiz, my first major musical at SCPA. That made me realize I want to be in musicals later in life, and helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my future.
Cristina: Ms. Simon, my 3rd grade dance teacher, and my high school vocal private lesson teacher Mr. Chapman. Ms. Simon pushed me because she’s so warm and was always there to tell me “You should be dancing, but you also should be singing!” and I think you really know you can sing when a dance teacher to telling you to audition for singing! She’s had so much support for me since the beginning. Then, Mr. Chapman – I love that man to death, there is no one I am more grateful for to help me learn how to sing. Starting out was rough, he started giving me opera songs, and I would scream, cry, and do anything I could to avoid him. Then I realized that if I started to listen to him I would get better and it wasn’t until I got Rizzo in Grease, or Dorothy in The Wiz, that I saw the change in my voice. That man has stuck with me through thick and thin and I am so grateful for him.
Hannah: I didn’t have him, but Brian Siekmann was so real, and down to business, but also so personable. Mr. Crowley was the first person to make me believe in myself as an actor. I had always been comfortable as a singer, but he helped transform my perception of myself as an artist. Mr. Jones had that same impact on me as well.
Q: In your opinion, what was the most amazing thing about going to SCPA?
Raymia: Getting to do what you love everyday! I think sometimes we take for granted the fact that we are at a school where, of course we learn academics, but we also have the opportunity to work on a professional level. That’s an opportunity that not many students get a chance to do. In my first month of being enrolled at SCPA, I met Oprah Winfrey! To have someone like that– and so many other iconic people who’ve done things in the industry to come to our school and talk to us – is really amazing!
Ruby: I’ve talked to my friends about how a lot of SCPA kids have roughly the same trajectory of their life story until they get to SCPA. We all come from different schools, but we all had the similar story of not belonging, or not having many friends, or not being into sports, and we all came to SCPA. We have a shared story of coming to this school and experiencing that change of finding people we loved, and having a space to finally be creative, and get opportunities with visiting writers, master classes, field trips to the ballet, and things we wouldn’t have gotten at another school. The amazing part was coming together and realizing their are people out there like me who like to write, or like to read, who love art and music, who appreciate those things in life. SCPA is a beacon for creative people.
Claire: Expressing my talent in the arts and having fun! When you want to be creative, creativity is all about entertaining yourself and the people around you. People love to see how talented you are, and you do the same for others as well because we’re all unique.
Trista: I would say the opportunity in high school to start building your resume, because of all the performance opportunities, training, and workshops available at school. Most students at other schools have to look outside of school or come out of pocket for that sort of opportunity.
Cristina: There’s a lot that goes into going to SCPA! I’d say, the chance to focus and do what you love. At “normal” schools, they have sports and clubs, but you don’t really have the opportunity to take those skills seriously and meet people in the industry. SCPA really did that for me – they gave me tons of exposure to what it’s like to perform on professional stages. The amazing staff at SCPA gave me endless help and support, even though we may have bumped heads or got into arguments, they still remained helpful and supportive in their own way. I love the environment and the adrenaline you get when it gets close to showtime and you’re wondering “Is this going to come together?” And it always did. One of the greatest things I got to do was perform as Dorothy in The Wiz for the little kids. They’d see me in the hallways and shout “That’s Dorothy!” I love to make people happy, so to see I brought a fantasy to life really made me feel good.
Hannah: The people! I grew up in not the best of school environments. I was this loud and outgoing person, and I wasn’t allowed to be myself in those environments. Then when I got to SCPA and everyone was loud and everyone was an artist, and it was normal to be that, it changed my perception of lifem and it was the people around me that lifted me up.
Q: Is there a really funny or fun memory you have from your time at SCPA you’d like to share?
Raymia: For me, it was Mr. Bryan the security guard! Mr. Bryan was just someone in the building who made everyday just feel really fun. Every interaction with him was hilarious. I’d always joke with him, and he’d always talk about the kids stressing him out, but he really does love us, and he works really hard to keep us safe! I promised him that if I make it, I’m buying him a house and a car!
Ruby: One of my favorite memories was Senior Showcase this year because all of my best friends were performing, and seeing them up there made it ten times better. I became friends with a lot of dancers this year, so I’d sit in the dance rooms as a creative writer, and watch them choreograph their senior showcase performance. I got up there and danced a little bit, learned some of the moves, it was so funny trying to keep up with them. I remember at the end of the year, backstage at graduation, Mr. Bjoza was giving out dance cords and I walked up to him and told him I deserved one, because I was in those dance rooms all the time.
Claire: A fun moment would be in art class with Ms. Young. There would be a giant roll of paper with paint, ink, and brushes, and everyone in class was encouraged to make whatever they wanted because it was about putting everyones imagination together. This was something Ms. Young wanted to provide for fun – not an assignment – because she wanted to make class entertaining. And it was!
Trista: The one that comes to mind is the year I was sworn into the National Honor Society. It was over Google Meet. I was smart enough to get into NHS but, I struggle with basic things, like knowing my left from my right. When it came time to raise our right hand to be sworn in, and I held up the opposite hand. That’s probably why I don’t have my driver’s license still.
Cristina: Mr. Hand was doing this thing for a while – when people were late for class, he would lock the door. My friend Chloe, somehow, was late every single day. We are seriously rehearsing for our upcoming concert, in our spots and vocalizing, when Chloe shows up a minute or two late and the door is locked. She’d have to sit in the hallway and stare him down until he opened the door. That daily interaction just got me so weak.
Hannah: When we did our Senior Showcase, because I got to collaborate with all of my friends from all the majors. I went to my friend Raashad, who’s a dancer, and told him I wanted to do “Beyonce.” And he was like, “Okay I got it.” And the next day, it was this big choreographed number. It felt like one of the key things that SCPA stands for, and it makes me smile thinking about getting to work with them everyday and getting to put on a performance for my whole class.
Q: When you found out you won the Alumni Association’s Dare to Dream Scholarship, how did you feel?
Raymia: I was so happy! I was checking my emails and I saw the letter and I was so thrilled. It was really exciting, and honestly an honor for the Alumni Association to give me this scholarship. I am truly blessed and grateful.
Ruby: I honestly forgot about it because I applied in April and I kinda forgot about it because of all the end of year stuff that was going on. So when I got the email, I was kinda like “What is this?” then I read the email and I just laughed and said “I forgot about this, this is so cool!” So I kinda had a bit of a freak out moment, but it’s always nice to get recognition for your work in high school and how much effort you put in. It’s a really good feeling that people appreciate your work and experience at SCPA.
Claire: I was thrilled to win. I thought the scholarship really encouraged me to really believe in myself, and that I can work hard, and be successful, and do all I need to in order to achieve my dreams!
Trista: When I found out, I was at my dance studio outside of SCPA, rehearsing for nationals. I took a break from rehearsal and checked my email. Before I could even finish reading the email I was so excited that I screenshot it and sent it to my mom. She was so happy and so proud of me. I also told my grandma later too because she helped proof my essay before I submitted it. She teased me and said “It was probably my suggestions that did it, that’s why you won.” She’s probably right, and I give her some credit, but I’m proud of myself either way.
Cristina: I was like “Dang! Maybe I do write a good essay!” Usually, I don’t like writing essays, but this one I enjoyed writing. Obviously, I felt happy but even more so, I felt heard. I put a lot of personal stuff into my essay and how I feel about being a performer. The scholarship was a bonus for me, what was really cool was the fact that someone read my essay and my point of view and people liked that. It was great going to the school that I went to so getting this made it even more special.
Hannah: I was very excited. I called one of my best friends and said “Girl, I got money from my school!” I was honored, because I know the people in my class are all so incredible so to even be thought of was really cool and kind of like a good reassurance.
Q: What are your current post-SCPA plans, and what led you to that decision?
Raymia: I plan on attending Columbia College of Chicago in August. I will be taking Film and Television with minor in Acting. I look forward to growing and learning in my field as an actress, and someone who wants to direct films. I also look forward to expanding in the industry and taking advantage of opportunities every chance I can get.
Ruby: My college decision process was pretty lengthy. I had my sights set on some schools that didn’t work out, but I am glad to be at the school I chose which was the University of Pittsburgh for Communication Rhetoric. Originally, I was waitlisted at Pittsburgh, so I committed to Ohio University for Journalism, but I got a call while in my digital arts class from Pittsburgh telling me I was accepted, and I took some time and weighed my options between the two, and ended up going with Pittsburgh.
Claire: My plan after SCPA is to attend college at The Ohio State University for Statistics. The reason I picked Statistics is because I was very interested in collecting data from real life problems, analyzing them, and finding solutions. Using data to better understand the world. I also think Mathematics was my favorite subject and I have developed a huge passion for it.
Trista: My current plans are to attend Point Park University in Pittsburgh for Dance, with a concentration in Jazz to get my BFA. I hope to double major or minor in something else a little bit later. What made that decision clear for me – and it wasn’t so clear at the beginning of my senior year – was the major musical at SCPA. The arts can be a pretty risky business but, the fact that I even have that as an option to do for the rest of my life, and possibly make a living of that, was a chance that I wanted to take, or at least try. My love for performing was so strong, and I didn’t want to give that up, so that’s how I decided what I was going to do.
Cristina: This fall I am attending the Indiana University – Jacobs School of Music, and I am so excited! I picked this school because I went there for my audition, and everyone was so nice and inviting, I just felt the warmth on campus. I am over the moon excited to be doing vocal performance, because no matter what genre I sing – Jazz, Classical, Opera, or Musical Theater – it’s going to help set up me and my voice to feel safe and prepared to perform some harder things.
Hannah: My biggest passion is Musical Theater ,and I knew I wanted to do that for school. I thought that if I wanted to do Musical Theater for school, I have to do it in New York City – in my head I said, “That’s where I want to be.” So I auditioned for Marymount Manhattan, which is my dream school, and I got in!
Q: How will the support of this scholarship help in your next steps in life?
Raymia: I will be putting the money toward my housing/room and board. Getting this scholarship from the Association has made me appreciate SCPA a lot more. Seeing that y’all care about us as students, our lives, our dreams, and our future careers – that truly means a lot. It’s really made me want to support and be a part of the SCPA Alumni Association and give back a fraction of what y’all have given me.
Ruby: There are expenses that scholarships like these definitely help with, like buying textbooks and library passes. More than that, its the support you feel behind the scholarship, and the support you feel from the Alumni Association in winning the scholarship. It helps boost your confidence as you step into the world, knowing that I do have support back home and at my high school ,and now I have a physical effect of that support!
Claire: I like the scholarship because it helps with finances and helps pay for college tuition. It’s also a reminder that hard work has its rewards.
Trista: I’m sure everyone knows that college is very expensive. This scholarship helps take some of the financial stress off, so I can focus on what I’m really there to do. Also, being chosen for this scholarship makes things a little more sweet, because sometimes you can doubt yourself in the arts. But this scholarship serves as a reminder that someone reviewed my essay and my application, and thinks I deserves this and is willing to invest in me. They believe in me so I should believe in myself as well.
Cristina: It’s going to help pay for it. My mom is widowed, my father passed away, so this will really help with that. Honestly, this scholarship made me write how I felt about being a performer, and I have it as a reminder when I’m feeling down about myself or feeling insecure. I am thankful for you guys having that prompt, so when I feel alone, or like I’m the only one, I know I’m not. So thank you for that!
Hannah: The money helps – money always helps, but I think the reassurance of “you are good enough” really pushed me to tell myself, “I got this.” So I think the scholarship, and the support from it and the community that the Alumni Association has created, allow me to know I have a place and people I can fall back on in times when I feel I may need help or a little lost.
Q: What is something you learned at SCPA that you think will help you move forward?
Raymia: I would say taking every opportunity that you can. Like I said earlier, we get so many opportunities at SCPA, and it’s easy to lose the meaning behind it. The fact that you actively get to work around people who love to do what you do as well, thats huge. So when you get opportunities, value them, learn from them, and then you work and work hard. Get on your Zoom and do what you gotta do for you!
Ruby: One thing I know will help me was the opportunity to talk to, communicate, and work with adults – it was game changing for me. I wasn’t just getting feedback from my peers, but getting feedback from real working writers. I was working with adults in the SCPA Box Office as House Manager – talking with guests, parents, teachers, and coordinating strategies with Ms. Beauchamp and Mr. Josh. In my College Credit Plus program I was able to talk with adults in the industry, and all of those experiences allowed me to mature pretty quickly, and become professional. I learned that I can put on that professional look, and I know that will help me in college and beyond because I know how to engage and talk to people, on any level.
Claire: I learned about support from friends and peers. They played a huge roll in in my life academically and socially. They serve as a key to help me become successful. It’s important to get involved in a community to build better bonds with people, and I hope everyone else does the same thing.
Trista: I think learning how to balance a busy schedule, because of SCPA’s expectation of excellence in academics and arts training. I’ve always said SCPA is not a normal high school. My friends from other schools will get out of school at 1 or 2, and I won’t get out of school till 5:30 or 6pm. It’s been like a 9-5 job, if you ask me. I feel like it really prepares you for college and the real world. You learn to live and survive at SCPA.
Cristina: While you do have your community and your friends, at the end of the day you also have to have yourself. You have to be your friend when friends come and go, your friend when the competition gets a little rough. Have yourself at the end of that day, and know that you’ll be okay even if it’s just you. Having yourself and having your passion is so important. There was a time I didn’t want to go to college, because I was tired of being judged, then I realized that I didn’t perform for others, I perform for myself.
Hannah: I think empathy, not only from the students, but from the teachers, and the amount of empathy and grace they allowed students was something that took me back at first – they valued us as human beings. Teachers like Mr. Digiantonio would give so much grace and remind us that everyone’s a human being, and everyone makes mistakes.
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?
Raymia: My advice is to stay focused. Don’t lose sight of your dreams and goals, and where you want to be in life. You’re becoming an adult, it’s your senior year, so after this you’re going off into the world. Something I didn’t realize until I graduated is that now’s the time to be with yourself and establish where you want to go. You have to show up for yourself, because no one else is going to do it for you.
Ruby: Something I learned my senior year that I’d like to pass on to you, is you need to take school seriously and think about your future, but also prioritize a social life, like your friendships, and your family. My senior year was full of ups and downs, and I didn’t always get what I wanted, and that sucked a lot of the time – but things worked out. I took high school very seriously – and senior year very seriously – and I still didn’t get all of the things I thought that I wanted. It’s important to have some fun! Don’t forget you are 16, 17, 18 years old, allow yourself to have fun sometimes.
Claire: I want to say don’t give up, because you can do this! Remember, “where there’s no pain, there’s no gain.” You will be successful in any path that you step into, so trust the process.
Trista: Seriously, take advantage of every opportunity. Senior year there is a lot of stuff to do, college applications on top of your regular school work. Still, senior year you don’t want to sit anything out because those experiences at SCPA are running out, so sign up for that audition, participate in that performance, mentor younger students and really connect. And be involved in your school, because when it’s over you want those good memories to look back on.
Cristina: Enjoy it. Don’t get caught up in arguments with friends, it will go away. Don’t get caught up in stressing over performances, it will happen if its meant to happen. Enjoy the people who want to be around you and the people who don’t. There’s no time for animosity or hate towards anyone. You don’t have time for that. Enjoy your time and enjoy yourself and enjoy your class because you may never see them again.
Hannah: Be unapologetically you! Really take your last year to find or fully be the artist that you are. I think my first two years at SCPA I was really scared, and I was an artist for everyone else and not myself. Legally, do what you want to do, because you only have one senior year, so be unapologetic about it.
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 2023 scholarship applicants for their outstanding submissions!
To donate to our scholarship for the SCPA class of 2024 and beyond click here to find out more information. Donations
Stay tuned for video versions of these scholarship interviews… Coming soon!
Meet Nykeba Banks:
While attending SCPA as a Vocal and Drama Major, many may have believed Nykeba to be a”shy” person, but those who truly knew NyKeba, knew how goofy her personality was!
After graduating from SCPA in 1999, Nykeba served in the Ohio Army National Guard. After retiring from the guard 13 years ago, NyKeba Banks has dedicated her life to serving her community in any way she can! She mentors and teaches young fire cadets the ropes of firefighting, She is also a volunteer for Queen City Swish working as a basketball coach and teacher. Nykeba was featured in a National Campaign for Secret Deodorant called Strong in the Fire and she models clothing for Fechheimer in commercials. We are very proud of Nykeba and wish her much success in the future! #SCPA4LIFE
Interested in becoming or nominating an Alumni to be featured in our next spotlight?
Fill out our nomination form here: https://forms.gle/PbrniZ3pJaTjb2Ap9
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!
OUR BIGGEST SCHOLARSHIP AWARD TO DATE!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
Welcome to the April 2022 edition of the official Alumni Newsletter, where we connect you with news and updates from The National Alumni Association of The Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts.