THEY HAIL from across the United States and bring a variety of talents and interests to the table. But the students elected this week as 2020-21 International Thespian Officers have one thing in common: a passion for making the International Thespian Society the best community experience possible for all its members.

The six student leaders represent the voices of the approximately 130,000 current student members of the International Thespian Society. These officers work year-round with staff of the Educational Theatre Association, chapter leaders, and Thespians from across the globe to nurture strong student leaders, advocate for the arts, and fundraise for accessibility.

ITOs also serve on the International Thespian Society Student Leadership Council, comprised of officers representing the state and provincial chapters of ITS or serving as their appointed delegates. The ITSLC meets monthly to develop leadership skills, elevate student innovation, and foster communication among chapter leaders.

The officers were narrowed from an initial pool of 56 applicants, with final voting coordinated by their peers on the council. Two of the new officers — Spencer Angell and Maura Toole — also served as ITOs during the 2019-20 school year.

They focused on two activities that enhanced the organization’s diversity and inclusivity, laying the groundwork for the ITSLC and initiating the Send A Leader Diversity grants, awarded to student Thespians traditionally underrepresented in student leadership who have experience in diversity-based leadership, service, and social justice activities. The incoming ITO intend to continue that work.

In May, Dramatics asked each candidate what strengths they would bring to the ITO position. Here’s what they had to say.

Spencer Angell, Lena Dougherty, and Jeyna Lynn Gonzales
Spencer Angell, Lena Dougherty, and Jeyna Lynn Gonzales

SPENCER ANGELL

Troupe 639, Salina Central High School, Kansas

I would bring two key strengths to ITS as an ITO. First, I am good at forming action plans that serve as the base for achieving an initiative. Second, I bring my experience of serving as an ITO previously. I believe that if I were reelected, this experience would allow me to assist the new ITOs in learning the position.

LENA DOUGHERTY

Troupe 8938, Wildwood Catholic High School, Cape May Court House, New Jersey

My strengths that can benefit ITS are my perspective, work ethic, dedication, and love for this organization. First, I believe I bring a unique perspective. I know firsthand that theatre is necessary for so many people who are considered by society to be different. This family feeling is life changing and lifesaving. Everyone deserves to feel part of something, and my goal is to open the theatre world up to as many individuals as possible. To do that, we have to advocate for the arts and fight to have theatre sustained and expanded. Theatre is not a privilege. It is a necessity. I believe it is as important as math or reading, especially in today’s world.

Second, I am willing to work for the organization in any capacity. I will stuff envelopes just as proudly as I will choreograph opening numbers or speak with lawmakers. Next, I will always give 100% because I believe so strongly in this organization and in theatre generally. Last, I love the International Thespian Society. I have loved getting to know this organization at festival and through my work as a State Thespian Officer. I believe it truly gives each of its members honor, pride, affirmation, and inspiration, as I have experienced each of these firsthand.

JEYNA LYNN GONZALES

Troupe 6371, J.R. Arnold High School, Panama City Beach, Florida

I have experience in and a strong passion for social networking, web design, digital media, and event management. My primary leadership skills include ambition, organization, dedication, and commitment. When working on special projects, I am known to act on the “what ifs.” If I have a seemingly far-reaching idea that can take things to another level, I will do everything I can to make it happen. I absolutely love what I do and will go above and beyond to make sure people are given the best opportunities and experiences possible.

Noah Manzanares, Isabelle Snyder, and Maura Toole

NOAH MANZANARES

Troupe 3183, Hanford High School, Kennewick, Washington

Aside from my passion for people and understanding of meaningful connections, I’m always thinking about the big picture. With that as a priority, I give even more of my attention to detail. I think my approach to things like enhancing social media engagement, Thespian networking, and bringing people together is unique and stronger because of it. Most importantly, I always want to keep the conversation open. There is no way to excel as leaders or members of society without bringing up the touchy subjects and discussing them. I promise to always handle situations of prejudice or exclusivity with grace and compassion.

ISABELLE SNYDER

Troupe 5029, State College Area High School, Pennsylvania

For as long as I can remember, I have had a keen awareness of those struggling around me. I have seen anxieties, worries, and questions, and I have been able to empathize. This empathy is something that continues to this day, but it doesn’t stop there. I believe it is not enough simply to be aware of the struggles within your community; you have to act. As an ITO, I will use my action-driven mindset in service of the global Thespian community. Additionally, theatre has taught me that true community is at its best when not dominated by one narrative but instead shared by many. Our strength is our diversity, and as an ITO, I will serve the diverse perspectives and interests of Thespians globally.

I value listening above all else and view it as the most powerful tool in enacting real change. In listening to you — your thoughts and ideas and concerns — ITS can better serve and celebrate Thespians. Finally, I persevere. Over the past few years serving as a student government official in my own school, I have had difficult conversations with principals, teachers, and even the school board and superintendent. But despite my discomfort, I persevered in the knowledge that sharing student concerns and ideas was important. I believe deeply that every voice matters and deserves to be heard. As an ITO, I will strive for greater equity within our organization, meeting students where they are and recognizing their varied needs and concerns. I will listen to you, empathize with you, and work to make the already remarkable Thespian community even more inclusive and unified.

MAURA TOOLE

Troupe 7993, Grimsley High School, Greensboro, North Carolina

Something I have enjoyed a lot about serving as an International Thespian Officer over the past year is that I have had the opportunity to learn about and refine my strengths and identify personal opportunities for growth. One of my greatest strengths is I am always working to develop a clear understanding of what servant leadership looks like, and I always strive to approach my leadership with this in mind. As an empath who also values rationality in leadership, I naturally consider equity in every situation, often enriching discussion of initiatives by broadening perspective.

During my time as an ITO, I have become a very confident communicator and have developed the skill of making complex ideas simple for others to understand. But I am always inclined to actively listen before I speak. I am quick to see skills and talents in other people and so am good at delegating for a team to be most successful. And I am resilient and work to encourage resiliency in teammates in all my actions. Above all else, I am endlessly curious about nearly everything. I am really good at asking questions and operate from the perspective that there is always more to learn. This means, as a leader, I am eternally looking for ways to grow so that every day I can better be of service to the student members of the International Thespian Society, which is what the role of ITO is all about.

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