WHEN CAMERON HOLDER is not talking about theatre, she is talking about leadership. While Holder did not pursue the latter passion until her sophomore year at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina, it has since become equally important to her.

Cameron Holder

Cameron Holder, recipient of the Broadway Licensing Send A Leader Diversity Grant. Photo courtesy of Cameron Holder.

According to Holder, “Leaders are people who help others and their community ― and encourage others to do the same.” Recognizing a lack of representation of student leaders of color in her school, the Thespian Troupe 7993 inductee became the junior varsity cheer captain, a homecoming dance committee volunteer, and Guilford County Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council member. Now that the rising senior has found her footing in diversity-based leadership, Holder advocates for more leaders of color in theatre.

This spring she was awarded a Broadway Licensing Send A Leader Diversity Grant, established by the International Thespian Officers to increase opportunities for students in diversity-based leadership, service, and social justice activities at the Thespian troupe, chapter, and national level. The grant enabled Holder to attend the 2020 Virtual International Thespian Festival, where she spent her first day in the student leadership workshop, Through the Leadership Lens.

During the workshop, Holder joined fellow Thespians to distinguish her leadership style, enhance skills as a collaborative team member, and identify best practices for maximizing arts advocacy in schools. After experiencing the student leadership training, Holder is more encouraged to advocate for theatre spaces that support all leaders ― no matter their color, creed, or religion.

What sparked your interest in theatre?
In elementary school, I went to see Mulan Jr. at the Starr Theatre [in North Carolina]. The actors were so talented. When the show was over, I knew I wanted to be involved in theatre. Theatre became [a place of] escape for me, where I felt like I was in a different world. I wanted to bring that feeling to others.

Cameron Holder and the Grimsley Playmasters rehearsing 21 Chump Street.
Cameron Holder and the Grimsley Playmasters rehearsing 21 Chump Street. Photo courtesy of Cameron Holder.

How many times have you attended the International Thespian Festival?
I have attended the International Thespian Festival three times because I have had amazing opportunities. During my freshman year, I was part of the Next Generation Works Thespian Filmworks program. I also performed a duet scene and 21 Chump Street as part of the Chapter Select showcase. During my sophomore year, I was awarded the Doug Finney Grant. And this year [as a junior], I participated in Virtual ITF through the Broadway Licensing Send A Leader Diversity Grant. Again, theatre is a place that gives me the opportunity to escape the world I live in, even for a fraction of a second. So, I want to continue to be part of every leadership experience I can to better myself as a leader.

How did your first leadership experience affect your perspective on leading others?
When I was the JV cheer captain, I learned a lot about myself as a leader. Working with my classmates ― having that level of respect with your peers and with people older than you ― was hard but worth it. I also loved it when someone asked me for help. It takes courage to ask for help, so you begin to see someone else’s growth and determination as a leader.

Holder and Corey Mitchell, recipient of the 2020 Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Teacher of the Year Award, at the 2018 International Thespian Festival.
Cameron Holder and Corey Mitchell, recipient of the 2020 Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Teacher of the Year Award, at the 2018 International Thespian Festival. Photo courtesy of Cameron Holder.

What are your three favorite moments from the virtual student leadership program?
My top three moments would have to be the last breakout room, talking to [Broadway actor] Alton Fitzgerald White, and listening to the ITO candidates’ speeches. The first workshop drew me into the whole experience. I did not know what to expect, so I came in open-minded and excited to see everyone. I was pleased with the outcome.

What advice would you give Thespians interested in pursuing the leadership program?
Do it! It is so much fun and a great time to learn about interesting things. I am so happy that I was part of such a wonderful event full of amazing leaders. It made me excited for the future.

Learn more about International Thespian Society student leadership programs and the Broadway Licensing Send a Leader Diversity grants online.

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