Alice is a participant this fall in the Civic Action Gap Semester, an exciting partnership program in collaboration with the Tufts University Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. Coming from Brazil, Alice shares her experiences with her volunteership, Spanish language classes, and getting to know her virtual cohort.
ON THE VOLUNTEERSHIP:
I am volunteering at Rosie’s Theater Kids as an Artistic Intern for this fall. Rosie’s Theater Kids is a non-profit arts education organization started by actress and comedian Rosie O’Donnell, dedicated to enriching the lives of children through the arts in New York City. It serves students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience theater, positively changing the trajectory of their lives by providing comprehensive classes in music, dance, and drama; thoughtful mentoring; and structured academic guidance.
As an artistic intern, I assist the program director with various tasks, including recording attendance and monitoring students, I also experience an immersion in arts education by classroom observation and also collection/analyses of classroom strategies and objectives, art as a tool for social change, and more. I attend regular check-ins with my supervisor, who is the Drama teacher, and together we work on the goals we have established that I should accomplish by the end of the program. At that point, I will have the opportunity to lead a theater class by myself, where I aim to add in the kids’ experiences in the theater a little bit about the Brazilian contribution for the global theater, where they will learn more and experience what is the Theater of the Oppressed, developed by Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal.
This has been one of the most life-changing experiences for me, either personally and professionally.
I have studied theater for the past 10 years as an actress, and it is my biggest passion, especially when used as a tool for social change. RTKids’ values align with mine, and each day I learn more and live what beautiful change and growth theater adds to society by changing these kids’ life. Art has changed my life, and all of us should experience theater in order to find out who we are and discover who we want to be, theater puts us in connection with our human and most vulnerable side, and this is beautiful, we all have something to learn from it.
As Augusto Boal said: “We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.”
ON SPANISH CLASSES:
As a Portuguese native speaker, learning more Spanish has been a way for me to connect with so many great and unique cultures that are right next to my country. I believe that even virtually, the cultural exchange is still powerful, if it was not for these circumstances I would never have a Spanish class with a native speaker from Nicaragua – a country so close to mine, and still, I did not know much about it, but each day I learn more about its history and people, and now I have this huge desire to go visit – and with classmates who are English speakers.
It is truly unique, which of us with our accents and way of expression! In class, we only speak in Spanish, it looked terrifying at the beginning, but it is nothing like this and is a space for learning and growth, and we are all there to try and get out of our comfort zones. We make presentations about our own countries, each class we engage in different topics and exchange different perspectives and cultural aspects of our backgrounds.
Even with technology fatigue, which by the way, in all aspects of of the AMIGOS program we have support with it, the classes are not a weight, and I feel that if at any point this virtual environment harms me anyway, I have support from all the staff, so that together we can find a way to solve it.
ON VIRTUAL COHORTS:
I decided to join the virtual cohort this semester because I needed something different, insightful, and unique, among all the bad circumstances we are all living in right now, and CAGS gave me this experience. I am not going to lie and say that a virtual environment is always positive because we know that is not, but we can change it and we can, together, turn it into a collaborative and safe space, and I believe that as a group we found our own way to do so, and AMIGOS staff support was crucial.
We have different spaces and time to connect with each other in different ways, like Llama Lounges, Language Café, classes, Spanish classes, workgroups and this is amazing and makes me feel that in fact, I know my peers and that we are building, hopefully, long-life relationships. Just like in in-person relationships, sometimes, connecting with someone takes time and effort, so as the virtual relationships. The experience is unique because of the people that are in it, I couldn’t imagine another cohort if not with these peers and this staff.
This AMIGOS program was the best choice I could have for this semester and moment in life.
For those that are joining the next cohorts all I would say is to embrace each aspect of the program, to step out of your comfort zones, and share your life experiences with others! It is a really mentally changeling time and I would say that being honest with yourself about your limits and real feelings are super important, in this program, you don’t need to be afraid of showing you vulnerabilities, in fact, you are encouraged to do so. We are encouraged and inspired to be truly and humanly ourselves.
ON COMMUNITY PROJECTS:
Other aspects of CAGS that have been unique and important for my personal growth is our own community projects. We are encouraged to reflect on our communities beyond the problems we see in it and that we want to fix, but also the root causes of an issue, why does it matter to us, why do we want to fix it, what in fact a community means to us. And I believe that all those aspects and the journey of getting into the actual project is so important, and is a processing of cultivating cultural humility and experience what civic engagement is about.
We are not in this world just to fix it, but instead to comprehend and live it.
Thank you so much Alice for sharing about your experience with the Civic Action Gap Semester!