There are nearly 800 TPP alumni across the country, and many of them have gone on to do amazing things to make a more peaceful world. Every few weeks, we will feature one of these inspiring young people here…
Years in TPP: I was a participant in Washington DC from 1996-1999. Who’s to Blame (96/97), I of the Storm (97/98) and Lockdown (98/99). I also served on the Board of Directors in New York from 2000-2009.
Current City: Brooklyn, NY
What are you doing now, professionally and creatively? I’m a Therapeutic Crisis Worker for the Rapid Intervention Team. We work with children and teens in foster care who are at risk for placement disruption. When I’m not doing social work, I have a private practice offering therapeutic massage, yoga, and herbal medicine. I am also part-time faculty at The New School where I teach a course called “Community in the City.” www.jenniferbenetato.com
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, professionally and creatively? I am studying to become a Dance/Movement Therapist and hope to continue to blend expressive therapies including dance, art, poetry, theater and music into my clinical work with individuals and families. I want more people to experience the healing power of the arts and intend to help grow the field by teaching others to do this work.
Did your time in TPP influence your career path or creative aspirations? TPP has absolutely inspired the professional and creative work that I do. It was through TPP that I learned many of the communication, conflict resolution, and social activism skills that I put into practice each day. It opened me up to new ways of experiencing the arts–as a vehicle for change, not just entertainment. As both a cast member and a board member, TPP taught me to never doubt the power of teenagers to do remarkable things, and that each of us is capable of much more than we know.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far? I’m proud of my ability to show up for my friends and family when they need me.
Who is one of your heroes? Ousmane Sembene, the “father of African cinema.” When he realized the books he was writing weren’t able to be read by most of the people in his native Senegal, he went to film school and turned them into movies. His films, which he called “night school,” helped to educate people about social issues the country was facing. He not only saw a problem, but came up with a creative solution.
What is your dream job? I’d love to open up an activist-oriented coffee shop that would serve as a safe space for people to come together to share ideas, present their passions, collaborate on projects and collectively turn their visions for social change into reality–with delicious healthy snacks available to sustain them in the process!
Where do you find inspiration? The city and the stories of the people who live here never cease to inspire me.
What is your ‘motto’ or some words you live by? “One of these days is none of these days.” Don’t put off making your dreams come true.
If the whole world were listening, what would you say? Speak to teenagers and elders more often…they know what’s up.
Years in TPP: 2005-2006 Saturday Cast (“Revolution in Progress”), 2006-2007 Saturday Cast (“Univers-All”)
Current City: Bronx, NY
What are you doing now, professionally and creatively? I am currently a community organizer for Girls for Gender Equity (GGE). After attending early college for a semester in Massachusetts, I returned to NYC with a desire to affect change in communities in which I identify and found GGE. Girls for Gender Equity is committed to the physical, psychological, social and economic development of girls and women. Through education, organizing and physical fitness, Girls for Gender Equity encourages communities to remove barriers and create opportunities for girls and women to live self-determined lives.
Being part of GGE has been one of the most rewarding & grounding experiences of my life. In 2008, I became a Sisters in Strength youth organizer with 7 other young women of color. We built sisterhood, mentored middle school youth & organized around gender justice, specifically addressing the issue of sexual harassment & gender-based violence in schools & on the streets. Since my initial introduction to this organization, I’ve been trained in Theatre of the Oppressed work to address the issue, spearheaded an advocacy campaign around implementing existing school policy around the issue, indoctrinated a new cohort of young women into this work AND was sent to Brazil to participate in an international young women & sports conference.
When I’m not working, I write, perform spoken word and act! I’ve been in a number of original productions since The Possibility Project, and my professional and creative worlds constantly cross paths. Most recently, I’ve done work with Theatre Askew Youth Performance Experience, in which queer youth and professionals collaborate to do original theatre.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, professionally and creatively? In five years, I will have gone back to college to pursue a career as a teaching artist, and be on my way to facilitating Theatre of the Oppressed work abroad in Brazil!
Did your time in TPP influence your career path or creative aspirations? Being part of The Possibility Project directly influenced all of what I do now. I decided to put my higher educational career on hold to do what I love in the real world and truly develop a sense of self that can be rare. It has been a struggle but truly believing in the beauty of my dreams has helped me overcome the obstacles of leading “an alternative lifestyle” in every sense of the phrase. TPP was the first community I truly felt I belonged to and now I get to help create community wherever I go. This ability is invaluable.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far? Learning to love myself has been my greatest achievement so far.
Who is one of your heroes? Octavia E. Butler is an amazing writer, and I aspire to be mentioned in the same arena as her.
What is your dream job? Teaching Artist would be my dream job…for now.
Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration from the communities in which I identify, as I identify as a queer young woman of color, and the lives of families, friends, and the people I love.
What is your ‘motto’ or some words you live by? It’s ok to lose your mind…so long as you find it again!
If the whole world were listening, what would you say? It takes courage to be human, especially when no one’s looking.
Years in TPP: 2007-2008 After School Cast (“Under the Lights”)
Current City: Elmhurst, NY
What are you doing now, professionally and creatively? I just graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Music (June 2011). I was accepted into the Hunter CUNY Master’s Program in Music Education and I start this August. For the summer, I am tutoring college music students and giving private voice lessons. I am also writing and creating music on my own. I’ve done a couple of shows to raise money for relief benefit fundraisers for disasters around the world.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, professionally and creatively? I see myself working towards my PhD, working with non- profit organizations, teaching music to private students, or teaching full time at a public, charter, or private school; or be a vocal coach to other artists. I will still be writing music and continue playing the piano, collaborating with other artists.
Did your time in TPP influence your career path or creative aspirations? Yes, The Possibility Project has opened my eyes to what youth are capable of and what youth can do with some helpful guidance. I was to be able to use the things I learned from my TPP directors to become a leader myself. Also with this organization I saw what performing arts can do. The arts have always been underestimated but as a Music graduate, I know all the capabilities the arts posses.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far? My greatest achievement so far would be obtaining my Bachelors of Arts in Music at the age of 21 and getting into Graduate school the same year I graduate. I will be the first in my family to attend graduate school.
Who is one of your heroes? My Heroes are **MY PARENTS**. They are two immigrants who came to America to seek opportunity for themselves and provide vast opportunities for their children. They are the reason I am able to have accomplishments, my education and my dreams. They came here with nothing and made something of themselves. I have seen the hardships that they have encountered and overcome. They are my heroes and the two people I look up to the most in my life.
What is your dream job? I would love to be SONG WRITER. Music isn’t just my PASSION, it is **WHO I AM**. Music is my relief, the way I express myself, music runs through me and I sing with my heart and my soul. I use music as a source of story telling – my stories, other’s stories, and issues of the world. And if my career was to do what I love, I would be part of the handful of people who are daring enough to do what truly makes them HAPPY, and that will make me happy. Happiness is achieved.
Where do you find inspiration? The PEOPLE in my life. My LIFE. My ENVIRONMENT. The ISSUES my COMMUNITY faces (minorities/women/youth). All GENRES of music. Other ARTISTS.
What is your ‘motto’ or some words you live by? Dreams will stay dreams if you do nothing about them. Make them a reality.
If the whole world were listening, what would you say? The way to change the world is to start changes with ourselves.