Family. That is the first word I would use to describe my Rise Above experience.
My name is Isabella Yoder and I was deeply involved with Rise Above Performing Arts throughout high school. I have just now graduated in June 2021 and am going to the University of Central Florida for college.
I have always been into musicals and singing, growing up. When I moved to Sarasota in 2014, I immediately started looking for theatre opportunities; from school to community theatre, I never felt like I belonged or had a mind-blowing experience. My very first musical was my 5th grade school production of The Arisocats KIDS, musically directed by Joi Chapman. I was only 11 years old and given the part of Marie. I absolutely loved working with Joi and was so sad that it was my last year of elementary school because I wanted to do more shows with her.
Fast forward to high school, and it’s the end of Freshman year. One of my friends told me that Joi was involved with a community theatre company called Rise Above and that I should audition for them. Despite me being 15 years old, I still auditioned for 13 the Musical (which I knew NOTHING about). Because Rise Above is community theatre, there were so many kids that I knew in the company from middle school and other theatres.
After 13, I knew that Rise Above was so special. I enjoyed every moment, from rehearsals, to the way the directors worked, to the passion everyone had in creating a high-quality show.
I ended up doing six more musicals with Rise Above after 13, joined the show choir, did one play, and was given many leadership positions along the way. I was dance captain for several shows, crew for The Little Mermaid, and the lead in Carrie the Musical.
Carrie made me learn a lot of things about myself and understand how I was like her. Before I joined Rise Above, I really didn’t have close friends. I was left out in school and never felt like I belonged, like Carrie White. Now, I am so happy to say that I have made the best friends of my life through Rise Above. People that I will keep in touch with after school.
That’s just what Rise Above has done for me socially. The directors have taught me so much about musical theatre, professionalism and have helped me improve my confidence tremendously. They are perfect role models and teachers. I’ve never seen a more passionate person than Jacob Ruscoe. He cares so deeply about every kid in the program and gives them so many opportunities that I am so grateful for.
I not only want to thank Rise Above for what they’ve done for me, but what they are doing for all the kids in the program. I’m not lying when I say that when I look back at my high school experience, I won’t think about school, I’ll think about the musicals I did with the people I love most, because they are my family.