• Shannon Stoddard

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" -- Eleanor Rooseve

Every morning before getting out of bed I always play on my phone and check out my Facebook memories. I like seeing what the past held for me before starting on my day. Today I was reminded that 3 YEARS AGO (2014) I began thinking about Grad School after a conversation with a friend at a Christmas party. Ironically, at that point I was looking to get my Masters in Business and didn't want to quit my job or leave Fort Smith. It's funny how life works out though, isn't it?

I sat with that idea of going to study business for a whole year. I just wasn't as invested but knew I needed to do something more to succeed in life. It wasn't until the next year (2015) that I began looking at schools for an Educational Theatre degree. That was how I found NYU and I decided to check into it. There was a summer program which I could complete in 3 years and not have to leave my job teaching in Fort Smith during the school year.

We all know how that worked out... January 2016 my sister and I took a Sisters Weekend trip to NYC and I decided to go speak to the program at NYU. I sat with the head of the Educational Theatre program and he tried to persuade me that I should look into going full time and complete the program in a year and a half. That seemed crazy to me then; but he insisted I would get a lot more out of my education. I went back to Arkansas and let that thought marinate for about a week.

Before Easter 2016 I had been accepted into the New York University Steinhardt Education Theatre program and would be moving in the Summer. I am still amazed at myself that I took that risk. If you were around me anytime during the first half of 2016 you know that I constantly went back and forth on whether or not moving to NYU for Grad School was the right decision, It terrified me... but I think that was JUST the push I needed!

The end of July 2016 I packed up my car with the cats and a million bags and boxes... my dad also had to ship a lot of stuff... I am NOT a minimalist! I began that journey to New York and didn't look back. I found myself some teaching jobs in the city and took in everything the city had to offer!

Within the first week of school I began my 12 credits of study, teaching the preschoolers with Dance.Laugh.Learn and began my musical theatre classes with Fresh Theatre Arts... as well as some dog sitting on the side! I really picked up the NYC hustle pretty quickly! My week consisted of traveling all over Brooklyn, Manhattan and even New Jersey! It was a lot but I was making it all work! I don't half-ass anything... including my New York City experience!

Within that first year I succeeded in earning a 4.0 for all 24 credits of classes I had completed! I stepped back from Fresh Theatre Arts in the Spring (too much commuting)... but picked up more classes with Dance.Laugh.Learn and more dog sitting times! I was cast in one of NYU's Educational Theatre productions -- which was quite the experience in itself! I made some great friendships throughout that first year which I'll treasure forever!

Finishing the first year of Grad School I was asked to teach with the Fire Island -- Ocean Beach Youth Group... where I taught drama classes to kids 3-13! Not only did a successfully direct a production of High School Musical JR (which was a feat in itself) ... but I was also awarded Director of the Summer! Not bad for a first year camp director!!!

I headed back to the city to begin my final semester of Grad School with another 12 credits! Still teaching every day of the week with Dance.Laugh.Learn and doing my dog sitting! I decided to take a step back from being involved in any productions -- but I still took on quite a bit during the semester!

It was shortly into the start of the semester that I KNEW I needed to go back home to Fort Smith. The city is wonderful and I feel like I've achieved so much! But my heart is back home in Fort Smith!

I enjoy being a big fish in a little pond... and I was never going to get that living in NYC. Plus, I feel like my talents of working with children are needed more in Fort Smith rather than NYC where there is already so much! I began contacting different people at home with the idea of moving back and working in Fort Smith!

December 2017 and I've finished with Grad School! All of my grades haven't posted yet... but I am hopeful for another 4.0 to end grad school PERFECTLY! Fingers crossed on that one! I've learned a LOT in a year and a half... but mostly I learned that I should have trusted myself MORE to begin with... I've known what I'm doing and now I have a degree and even more knowledge to back that up!

I move back home to Fort Smith in a month and I can't wait to see where life takes me next! It looks like I'll be doing some work with the Community School of the Arts and I know for sure that I'll be directing, acting and producing at the Fort Smith Little Theatre throughout their 2018 season! I look forward to this next adventure and I am so thankful that I took the leap of faith to begin this particular journey of Grad School! I DID IT and I honestly didn't think I was capable of such a thing!

With all that being said -- go out there and live your own dreams -- no matter what they may be! Believe in yourself and you'll succeed! Plus, you'll never know if you don't try!

#gradschool #followyourdreams #takingchances