I hoped that when I started Advice for My Daughter I would be able to interview Suzanne Walsh.
Suzanne Walsh is a remarkable woman. I am thankful to have known her for nearly 30 years. Suzanne has run a summer program in New York City, Creative Arts and Athletics, for 33 years. Students can take a variety of arts based classes in music, visual arts, and theater, while also working those athletic muscles. The camp truly empowers its students to not only become accomplished in the arts, but to also become thoughtful, concerned leaders and citizens. I attended this camp for two summers. The camp played a major role in my maturation as an adolescent. I dabbled in photography and animation, provided the voice of the Church Lady in a play, lip synced to Robert Palmer, teamed up to create two of the most ridiculous (but totally funny at the time) movies, won ribbons in track, and even met my first ever girlfriend. Suzanne also gave me my first job as a Counselor in Training. Not much seems to be able to slow down this amazingly resilient woman as she is still going strong as the camp's director. Suzanne was kind enough to offer her time recently to share her story and some Advice For My Daughter.
Suzanne told me she owes her career in education to her father. "As a young kid I had a father who was in education, and I always wanted to work with kids in theater. I always knew exactly what I wanted to do." She continued to develop a love of theater in college, and she was really inspired by a unit on educational theater during her sophomore year at Connecticut College. "Once I found theater in school, everything else just started getting better." She eventually spent some time working at a creative arts program at Charles River School, which became the model for Creative Arts and Athletics. "I want to do that summer creative arts program down here." She thankfully found the right home.
Suzanne started teaching at Convent of the Sacred Heart 38 years ago while she was finishing her Masters. She ran the idea of this creative arts based summer program by her administration and they gave her the green light. Suzanne remains grateful for the school's amazing support for such a visionary concept. She's never wanted to move the program somewhere else, although the program has had to relocate a few times due to renovations at Sacred Heart. Why does she remain dedicated to a program that runs during the summer? Suzanne replies, "My job is so fun. I get to think of summer year round! I don't want a whole summer off." What is the program all about? It's a place to experiment and grow. "Witnessing a child say, 'I did it' as they figure out something for the first time. Seeing that joy is worthwhile. I don't believe in that final, finished, polished stuff. Never did."
A major part of Suzanne's job continues to be fundraising, as she spends much of the year trying to secure money from companies. Why does she work so hard on fundraising? Suzanne genuinely believes that anyone and everyone should have access to this type of creative arts based program. Most of her efforts go towards The Hatter's Ball, which is CAA’s primary event to raise scholarship funds for campers in lower income families. It features a live band, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction. This year, Hatter’s Ball award recipient is musician Rosanne Cash. In addition, I am proud to have supported the recent Laurence Smith Memorial Basketball Game, which raised nearly $3000 for a scholarship in honor of Laurence Smith, a former camper. Laurence was also the youngest brother of one of my good friends and classmates, a former student of mine, and a friend. Not surprisingly, Suzanne's work raising scholarship money is what makes her most proud. "I've offered over 1500 kids scholarships. I do it for the kids. I really do."
Suzanne's advice for someone who wants a career in education? "Get your hands dirty. Do practical work. Anything." Her life's motto is "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Even if it's asking for a large amount of money. You just feel that much better if you do it, even if the answer is no."
Thank you to Suzanne for contributing to this project, but more importantly thank you for all you have done to provide opportunities to young children like me to attend such a fun and warm place.
Check out what CAA is all about here.