Where you work:
Sheridan County YMCA
What do you do:
I am the youth arts director at the Y. I have the privilege of developing programs and opportunities that engage youth in the arts in meaningful, experiential ways.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up here in Sheridan. I graduated from SHS in 2011 and knew from a young age that Sheridan would always be my home. I had every intention of coming back here after college.
If you attended college, where and what did you study?
I attended the University of Wyoming and studied elementary education. I graduated summa cum laude in 2015.
How did you end up working at the YMCA?
There are two things that really pushed me to seek work at the Y. First, I know that working with youth is the most meaningful and intrinsically motivating work out there for me personally. Not only is teaching fun and enjoyable for me, but I take great pride in the large positive effect I have the opportunity to make.
My second motivator to seek work at the Y was my mentor and friend Tami Davis. Tami was the Y’s previous arts director and I, as a child, benefited greatly from her work and passion for youth arts engagement. I have many positive memories of working with Tami as my teacher, and the enduring skills I gained from singing and performing in her groups truly have been a boon for me in many areas of my life, not just the arts. Once I graduated from UW, Tami talked with me about bringing my skills and passion to the Y. Combining my education and passion for working with youth with my experience and love of the arts is what led me to the Y. It really has been a dream fit for me.
You get to work with kids from all kinds of backgrounds. What is one observation you have about “kids these days”?
Kids today are incredibly capable. I find that in all things I teach, the mental agility kids possess is truly remarkable, and their ability to assimilate knowledge impresses me every day. No matter what artistic challenge I present to students, they virtually always rise to the occasion and are mentally adroit enough to excel.
Some people aren’t “kid people.” What kinds of qualities do you think a “kid person” needs to have?
It’s easy to point to warmth, compassion and patience as the necessary traits of a “kid person.” But beyond that, I think an adult that is a “kid person” is someone who holds a deep appreciation for the complexity and importance of a developmental journey already completed. Any adult can be truly empowered or disarmed by events that occurred during their formative years.
Childhood can be a period of time where the inner voice is developed and learned. The desire to equip children with a “Yes, I can!” inner voice is, in my estimation, part of the calling of a “kid person.”
What is the most fun aspect of your job?
The most fun aspect of my job is getting to teach so many young people in our community.
Over the last year, I’ve connected with between 600-700 kids, and the growth of our arts programs suggest that that number will continue to climb moving forward.
Bringing the arts to young people is very rich, joyful work. When I hear the music and laughter of my classroom, it’s almost impossible to have a bad day.
You’re from Sheridan — graduated in 2011 — what kept you here while so many other people your age have left the state?
I appreciate Sheridan’s relentless commitment to youth development. Artistically, athletically and academically, I believe that this town has so much to offer kids. There are so many outstanding community leaders in Sheridan that are committed to giving children here the best experiences possible. Having grown up here myself, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
Outside of work, being a musician brings me great joy. I take great pleasure in sitting down at a piano and learning a new piece, especially classical piano literature. The entire musical process — discovering a piece, unpacking it, studying it, rehearsing it, developing it over time — is very satisfying for me. It can be a challenge that often takes weeks or months, but the challenge is always positive, never frustrating. Lately, I’ve been very enthusiastic about learning Claude Debussy’s preludes for piano. Each prelude is like a personal pilgrimage, and the musical lessons learned from each one have been very rich.
I also seek out several opportunities throughout the year to participate in musical ensembles as a percussionist. During the academic year, I play percussion for the Sheridan College Symphony Band and Sheridan College Symphony Orchestra. I routinely march with the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Band’s drumline in the summers, and regularly play percussion in the weekly Concerts In The Park, too. Getting to think and connect as a musician is the best “recharge” for me. Even after a long day, picking up a pair of drumsticks or sitting at a piano can be incredibly restorative for me.
What is one quote you live by?
“Be an agent of positive change.” — Romero Britto, contemporary artist