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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The World Is a Stage, so Act Accordingly

A sixteen year old girl cautiously enters a room of unfamiliar faces. She quickly scurries towards the last seat in the back row hoping to blend in. Unfortunately, her attempt at invisibility is futile. Only minutes into the first meeting and a program coordinator ushers her onto the stage to participate in an improvisational group icebreaker. The look of apprehension on her face suggests she isn’t going to make it through the first activity, let alone the first day. With a racing heart and shaky hands she hesitantly walks into an experience she will never forget.

More than just a tale of youthful anxiety, the story above recounts the events that lead to the active development of my life skills. From learning confidence and networking to teamwork and effective communication, I began a personal transformation the day I entered the Development School for Youth.[1] At the beginning of each session, the program directors Pam Lewis and Dr. Lenora Fulani would remind us that “The world is a stage and we are the performers.” Acting techniques and performance training were integrated into our weekly corporate tours, mock interviews, and resume workshops. Beyond learning how to succeed in the business world, the DSY program taught me how to excel in life. Every big formal presentation down to every little casual handshake was an opportunity to step out of my shell and perform the role of a confident young woman.

As an ambitious, but mousy Brooklyn girl, I initially was more interested in acquiring a DSY internship than an opportunity for personal growth. At that time I was content to remain the loner in the back, but as time progressed I realized my quiet persona was not set in stone. Whenever I became anxious I would remember to act calm and confident. By the end of the program, academic obligations forced me to decline my DSY summer internship, but in hind-site it opened the door to a host of opportunities. In the process of acting, I became a confident and out-spoken person. I began volunteering with youth programs, leading presentations, speaking with affluent community figures and comfortably sitting in the first seat of the first row.

Looking back on that day I think about how hard it was for me to get on stage, and how easy it would have been to walk out the door. I think about how easy it is for inner city, impoverished, and under-served minority youth to feel trapped by low-self esteem and even lower social expectations. These thoughts personally highlight the significance that life skills development can have on a young person’s self-perception and community involvement. Had I not developed these skills, I would not have stepped out of my self-made persona, crossed socio-economic boundaries, and actively participated in the world beyond my perceived perception. It is important to play the role of the person you aspire to be, because perhaps that is the person you truly are.

[1] The Development School for Youth is a twelve-week leadership training and career education program for young people aged 16-21. The DSY program is one of several youth programs lead by the All Stars Talent Show Network (


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