My life changed when I stopped at a red light. In the Arkansas summer heat, a panhandler stood on the pavement. The young woman, exhausted, held out a sign that read, “Please Help. Pregnant Teenager.” My heart shattered. The young woman couldn’t have been more than a year or two older than me. She wore a Star Wars-themed R2-D2 backpack. Her brown hair and eyes reminded me of Princess Leia. The car behind me honked; the light was green. Pushing the gas pedal, I wondered if I could have helped her.

Before I tell you how that stop at the red light inspired me to create a fundraising event that benefits teens, I’ll introduce myself quickly. I’m International Thespian Officer (ITO) and State Thespian Officer (STO) Alexandra Holder, but my friends just call me Alex. I proudly represent Troupe 7055 from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Growing up at P.A., I’ve been fortunate to be part of a thriving theatre community that is supported and loved by my school and its administration. 

Sheridan Posey, our theatre director, is a compassionate teacher, talented artist, succinct, but imaginative director, a visionary, and always fights for her students and the best opportunities for us. Taking on a huge workload, she directs our troupe and produces six shows a year. Not to mention that during the school day, she teaches six theatre classes that are unique in material. She puts in long hours to give us the best experiences and opportunities and is always ready to help us with side projects of our own.

Teen female actors on stage in elaborate colorful costumes.

Photo credit to Tyler Eatherton.

As an ITO I mainly focus on theatre education advocacy. I encourage the creation of more theatre programs, working at the state level to create drama clubs in an effort to give as many students access to theatre as possible. I look for avenues to increase communication with our State Thespian Officers to make progress on the state level.

How That Panhandler Inspired Me to Make a Difference

Arts Take Action was not much more than an idea when I developed our tagline “Teens Helping Teens.” The fundraising event is just that: a competitive performance where high school singers, actors, dancers, instrumentalists, and visual artists come together to raise money for Immerse Arkansas, a local nonprofit that serves teenagers in crisis. Preparing for the event required a whirlwind of phone calls, late-night meetings, and countless drafts of press statements.

I loved every second of it! I’ve always been motivated to do my schoolwork, memorize lines for plays, and help my classmates understand course material. This was different. The early morning interviews and midnight self-imposed strategy meetings were energizing. This work was rewarding in a way I never imagined possible. I found great joy in problem-solving, communicating with my team, and developing public relations skills on the fly. The most surprising outcome was discovering my life’s calling: to help others through leadership.

But I felt like it was never enough. I wasn’t making the impact I wanted. How could I waste any time or money that others so desperately needed? All I could see was that young girl on the side of the street.

People would ask me how I found the time. The truth was, the feeling of guilt of privilege was a beast inside me that couldn’t be quelled. Coupled with that was society’s perception of me: a 15-year-old girl with an idea. I smiled through live interviews when I was called “cute” and agonized over meetings when no one listened to me. The unanswered emails from schools and flat-out rejections from sponsors didn’t stop me. I had people to prove wrong and young women to fight for; I had a mission to finish.

Standing in the wings during our second event, I hardly listened to the act onstage. I couldn’t stop thinking about “Leia,” the young woman who had inspired all of this. Now as I prepare for our third year, I marvel at how one person I never met altered my life’s direction and focus.

Proof that Passion Drives Change

Dark haired, white teen, with black shirt and green background, smiling

In 18 months, we raised $12,000 worth of food, clothes, education, support, and therapy. Realizing the importance of Arts Take Action, I fashioned the event to be sustainable by training younger team members to run the event after I graduate. I use the lessons I’ve learned to mentor other young girls, teaching them how to take their philanthropic aspirations and turn them into realities.

Even after the curtains closed, I wanted more. I realized I have the passion and the power to make lasting changes in the world. Arts Take Action’s continued fundraising for thousands of teenagers in crisis is the start of my mission, but it is far from over. What started as a passion project turned into a statewide, annual, established event that taught me the power of my own voice.

As I turn to the future, I know my love for others and my unbreakable spirit will culminate in a fulfilling life. I will diligently fight for the oppressed and lead others to see that every person is deserving of a brighter tomorrow.

Theatre people are revolutionaries. Whether we pursue the craft professionally or only participate in one production, it changes us. It teaches us that we are so much more than we could ever imagine. That we have power to positively impact others. Theatre shows me that we all have the power to enact positive, long-lasting change.

Even though this is my senior year, the Arts Take Action event will be carried on by the very talented Brooklyn Courtney-Moore! Check us out on social media at @arts_take_action on Instagram or email us at [email protected] to find out more about our third annual event on February 6, 2022.

Find Me!
Instagram: @_alexandraholder_
Facebook: /Alexandraholder.holder
Email: [email protected] 

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