Crissie Sanchez was first introduced to the Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA) program as a middle school student. She went on to be an IOCA alumni mentor, artist leader intern, production artist, and now an Artist Leader Trainee, helping to teach students at her former middle school. We asked Crissie to share more about her experience moving from student to teacher and about what she now hopes her students can learn from her.
I want my students to know that Inside Out is more than just a program about theater. This program is about heart and soul.
Tell us about your experience as an Inside Out student.
IOCA was my miracle waiting to happen. I truly believe that without a program like IOCA, I wouldn’t be as confident and strong as I am now. As a middle schooler, I had a lot of anxiety and insecurities on a number of things like my ADHD and my inability to create connections with my peers, which resulted in my being bullied. As I learned throughout the program, there was so much more to me than my anxiety and my insecurities. I learned that I had a voice and a knack for being…me.
In a few months after joining the program, I started to express myself more through my fashion choices and my personality traits. I never thought that I was a good enough person before the program, but strong, supportive women like Lora Cawelti and Andrea Shreeman (who were my first artist leaders) taught me the beauty in creating super sweet, silly art.
IOCA was my miracle waiting to happen. I truly believe that without a program like IOCA, I wouldn’t be as confident and strong as I grew to be now.
What is it like to teach for a program you participated in as a student?
It is SUCH AN HONOR to be working with IOCA as an Artist Leader Trainee. My experiences as a student, alumni mentor, artist leader intern, and production artist have molded every part of my being outside of the program as well as inside. When I see a child grow from the timid, worried person to this beautiful, excited, fearless actor, I can’t help but well up with tears of joy. It is a blessing to be given the opportunity to help someone see themselves in a new positive light. I am helping a child access a part of them that they never thought was there… just as my artist leaders and mentors did for me.
My experiences as a student, alumni mentor, artist leader intern, and production artist have molded every part of my being outside of the program as well as inside. When I see a child grow from the timid, worried person to this beautiful, excited, fearless actor, I can’t help but well up with tears of joy.
How do you feel being back at your middle school?
I always think about my days in that school. The good and the not so good. Every classroom I walk into reminds me of a different memory. I know that middle school is such a hard transition for 9-14 year-olds. The fact that I went to that exact school makes me even more conscious of that—it centers me and helps me stay connected even with my gradual transition from student/trainee to teacher/adult. I leave the campus every session feeling grateful to be able to come back.
Tell us about your personal work and how it affects your teaching.
Besides teaching, I am going to school and working on my general education classes as I plan to transfer into a four-year program. My goal is to graduate with a degree in theater arts and social justice. On the weekends, I also lead a choir at a church. IOCA also gave me the confidence to sing! As soon as I realized that I can sing, I volunteered at my church. Throughout my years there, I have earned the role in leading their English choir. Because of all these extracurriculars, I can help students with writing songs and rehearsals in singing.
What are some consistent sources of inspiration for you/your artwork?
Some consistent sources of inspiration for me would have to be children’s education TV shows. Shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood were staples in my childhood. I always loved the strong and seamless morals they had to offer. Songs like “It’s You I Like” by Fred Rogers and “Just One Person” by Jim Henson still give me the inspiration to move forward. As I dive deeper into my own art projects, I hope to create music or poetry in the likes of those songs.
Other inspirations would be The Carol Burnett Show, oddly enough. I know that I am not exactly the age bracket that the humor was written for, but I find Carol Burnett to be so powerful in her comedy. I had one VHS I would watch over and over again where Carol Burnett parodied Gone With The Wind. The strength and talent she had along with her castmates always made me so hopeful that one day I would be like her.
If your students have one main takeaway from your class, what would you like it to be?
I want my students to know that IOCA is more than just a program about theater. This program is about heart and soul. At the end of a session, I hope that each and every single student found out something about themselves that they never knew before. Whether it be a newfound talent or cool new favorite genre. My biggest wish is for them to learn how to mold and nurture their hearts, minds, and souls. You can’t spell heart without ART.
Tell us about a memorable class/student/lesson.
There are so many now! As I progress with the program I meet new students that just blow me away! I will always remember one student who was so bright and funny, with so much charisma. They were fantastic at acting and amazing in comedy. This student was so fiercely true to themselves that it was always so incredible to see them process the storyline then actualize it with such ease. I will always be blown away.
What famous person, either dead or alive, would you choose to take out for coffee?
This is definitely a difficult question. I think that the person I would like to choose is Jim Henson. He was such a creative genius and was always creating such a beautiful form of entertainment every chance he got. He created a universe that is still recognized to this day even after his passing. I want to know where he drew inspiration from. What kept him going even when he was tired? How did he organize his ideas? How can I start creating?
Overall, I have and always will be 100% dedicated to a program that not only brightened my life but also changed my life forever. The concepts and skills that I have learned throughout the years with this program have made me extremely excited to see what I can create next. Art equals life, forever.
Thank you, Crissie Sanchez! We love hearing your stories about your time as a student and now as an Artist Leader Trainee! Read more stories from the IOCA program here.