THANKS TO A NEW GRANT — and the hard work of two classes of International Thespian Officers (ITOs) — more students will experience leadership training at this year’s International Thespian Festival. Broadway Licensing is underwriting new Send A Leader Diversity Grants to cover expenses related to ITF registration and enrollment in the festival’s weeklong Student Leadership Program, offered to Thespians interested in taking on more active roles at their troupe, chapter, or national level.

The grant was the brainchild of the 2018-19 ITOs, who wanted to increase access to leadership training for more Thespians and specifically inspire those with experience in diversity-based leadership, service, and social justice activities to participate. As their term concluded last summer, they passed the program’s baton to the newly elected ITOs, who took up the vision and worked with EdTA staff to outline parameters for the grant.

“This grant aims to increase diversity from the troupe level all the way to the International Thespian Officers,” said 2019-20 ITO Nic Fallacaro, a senior from Pennsbury High School in Pennsylvania. “Diverse representation in leadership yields the potential for more inclusive environments. When leadership is more diverse, leaders can more effectively serve those they were elected to represent.”

Maura Toole, an ITO junior from North Carolina’s Grimsley High School, says leadership training offers personal growth. “This initiative is particularly important to me because it has the potential to allow voices to be heard that otherwise might not be, which will enrich EdTA’s student leadership and support the organization’s mission,” said Toole.

“I would love to see ITOs in the future be more representative of the students they serve,” she continued. “The International Thespian Society has very diverse student membership, and I believe the student leadership of the organization can and should reflect this so that every Thespian feels they are represented.”

Students participating in the ITF leadership track not only gain valuable skills but also participate in the election of next year’s ITOs. These officers work year-round with EdTA staff, chapter leaders, and Thespians from across the globe to nurture strong student leaders, advocate for the arts, fundraise for accessibility, and create the best experience possible for students. Both Fallacaro and Toole encourage students to consider participating in the ITO program.

The newly elected 2019-20 International Thespian Officers join the previous class at the 2019 International Thespian Festival.
The newly elected 2019-20 International Thespian Officers join the previous class at the 2019 International Thespian Festival. Photo by Corey Rourke.

Toole says she’s not only seen herself grow but also helped guide growth in other student leaders across the country. “I am challenged to learn new things every day from the people I work with and the students I meet, even when I am the one teaching.”

Fallacaro says Thespian student leadership programs have given him tools for success in high school, college, and future careers. “Serving as a troupe president, Student Thespian Officer, and ITO, I have learned many important life skills, including how to work cohesively with different groups of people and communicate effectively with adults to advocate for myself and others. Student leadership is one of the best ways to make your voice heard and ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’”

Applications for the 2020-21 ITO positions are open through April 1 to current sophomore and junior Thespians in good academic standing who have registered to attend the Student Leadership Program at ITF. Learn more about eligibility requirements and apply online. Preference for the Broadway Licensing Send a Leader Diversity Grants will be given to students from groups traditionally underrepresented in student leadership. Applications for the grant are due April 15.

Unlike other workshops at ITF, the Student Leadership Program requires advance registration. Visit the ITF website for complete details.

Interested in learning more about the ITO program? In this video, students who served as national officers for the International Thespian Society in 2018-19 sum up in a word the impact the experience had for them.

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