Students share their voices in the Student Advisory Board

Brenna Kempf
By Bridget Mountain

We had the chance to sit down with Associate Academy Director Brenna Kempf to talk about the Student Advisory Board and what it means to her and her students.

What is the Student Advisory Board?
The Student Advisory Board is composed of student leaders who want to learn more about how First Stage and other professional theaters work. Members have the opportunity to bring a student perspective to Academy programming and policies, serve as a First Stage newscaster on our social media channels, volunteer, attend events to tell others what First Stage means to them, and more!

How many students are involved with the SAB? The SAB began in 2013 with 14 members, and it has grown each year. We're now up to 35 students - our biggest group so far!

Why does First Stage have a Student Advisory Board? Why is it important?Through the SAB First Stage is helping to raise new generations of leaders, ensuring that our students have a place to express their ideas, thoughts, and wishes about the Academy and First Stage as a whole. SAB members are ambassadors for the Theater Academy, exemplifying the confidence and empathy that we teach in our classrooms. The SAB gives our students ownership and responsibility, which is vital for the continuance of the community of young people at First Stage.

What are some of the goals of the SAB this year?The SAB is student-driven, so I want them to accomplish whatever they set their minds to! At our initial meeting, we shared our interests and curiosities. It looks like this year we will focus on learning more about the “inner workings” of First Stage and its departments, giving back to the Academy students and Milwaukee at large, and finally, growing closer together as a group with social events and bonding activities.

What is your favorite thing about First Stage?  I am so proud to work at a place that encourages young people to be simultaneously empowered and empathetic. These are key Life Skills that, personally, I feel have the ability to heal, inspire, and grow our community.

First Stage Student Advisory Board, 2016
What are you currently working on with the SAB? The SAB members just finished their “First Stage 101” course and are working on creating their own elevator speeches. An elevator speech allows them to talk with others (friends, family members, anyone) about First Stage in a clear, concise, and personalized way. We also kicked off our year together with a Socktober drive! With a goal of collecting 175 pairs of socks, we are assembling donations of new and gently used socks to donate to a local shelter. We are hoping to spread the First Stage love and warmth and we think that gifting socks to those in need is a great way to support our community!  

We chatted with some of the students in SAB and here is what they have to say about First Stage, 

“Since the first day of my first Academy class – which was in first grade – I fell in love. I took a break from it for a while, but I missed it so much. I came back and I want to be a part of the bigger picture.” – Nathan (8th grade)

“I took my first First Stage class this summer. It was a great experience with a very friendly environment. I was welcomed in as if I’d been here since kindergarten! First Stage is a great place to be – especially if you don’t have 'a place.'” – Kelsey (11th grade)

First Stage is an acting camp or theater camp, but it’s actually more like an empathy camp. Everyone is friendly, and nice to everyone around you. This is a fun place where you get to be yourself. Where you are accepted. … I am jumping at the invitation to be on the SAB. I want to develop my self-management and leadership skills, and I think I can do that here.” – Celeste (10th grade)

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