Guests at our Circle of Friends dinner in April were treated to a heart-stopping rendition of “Defying Gravity” (from the Broadway play Wicked) by a young woman who has fought hard to follow her dreams.
Neal U. is from a Filipino immigrant family working to succeed in America. They don’t understand singing and acting as serious activities. Neal is a respectful young lady who tries to do everything she should, so for many years she stayed away from opportunities to test her talent.
“Because of my family, the pursuit of the arts has not always been easy for me,” said Neal. “I’ve always wanted to perform, but never had the confidence to do anything about it.”
Neal certainly didn’t seem timid as she belted out the haunting lyrics in front of several hundred people:
I’m through accepting limits
‘Cuz someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!
Neal credits her participation in CV’s Teen Choice program as giving her the confidence to not only pursue her dream of performing but also of learning to be a leader. Teen Choice, which operates in 26 New York City schools, teaches students the skills to identify goals and to set a plan to achieve them. In Neal’s case, that meant respecting her family’s feelings but speaking up for her own as well.
“I’ve gained the confidence and comfortability to share my imagination with my practical family,” says Neal. “They may not always get it, but they’ve grown to accept that it’s what makes me happy.”
While Teen Choice teaches leadership, its roots are in pregnancy prevention. The program aims to educate teens about sex and sexuality so that they can dismiss myths and focus on facts, and have the confidence to
share their knowledge with peers. Through workshops, group discussion, and an open attitude that respects everyone’s questions, Teen Choice gives students the knowledge they need to stay safe and control their own
Neal is unsure where her artistic talents will lead her, but is certain of one exciting fact: she will soon attend her first performance of Wicked on Broadway, thanks to a generous CV Trustee who couldn’t believe that this
talented singer had never heard “Defying Gravity” sung professionally.