By: Fabian Garcia, 2018 Graduate
February 13, 2020
Hear firsthand from one of our alumni about the ways he has overcome disappointments in his post-grad life and followed his own path to creativity, leadership, and lifelong learning.
I have always respected the arts and the powerful impact they have on people emotionally and physically. It wasn’t until I found dance that I was able to build a healthy self-confidence. In my interactions with other artists, I learned how to wear my identity with pride just by moving.
I started attending Inwood Academy when I was in 7th grade, and I was part of the first graduating class in 2018. In my time at Inwood, I was able to grow creatively and academically because I knew my teachers trusted and believed in me. I think all of the students felt that way, as if the staff knew what we were capable of doing, and they allowed us to become professional. So with the support of my school, I pursued dance passionately throughout my high school career.
During our junior year, my twin brother Sebastian and I were both accepted into the American Ballet Theatre’s year-round program. Inwood Academy helped us set up a fundraiser so that we could take advantage of the expensive opportunity the program had to offer. I still vividly remember the day we met our goal. It was May 1st, our birthday, and we had a performance that night. As we went on stage we were excited to know that we were going to be able to study at the American Ballet Theatre school for the entirety of our senior year at Inwood Academy.
On a typical week, I would dance six out of seven days for about five hours, and I would perform multiple times per month. It was intense, and I was always busy. You can imagine it was difficult to manage honors level studies while doing all of this, but my teachers at Inwood Academy were accommodating and helped me excel in both academics and dance. They flexed deadlines for my schedule and found time to meet with me outside of class. Ms. Laughner was an especially huge help to me with organization, writing papers, and processing the anxiety that my busy life brought.
I am also grateful that my teachers allowed me to study what I was passionate about within the structure of their class. My English teacher Mr. Olivencia helped me explore my artistry in writing, and I built a great relationship with him because he knew my drive was serious and gave me the space to excel. For example, when he assigned a three-page essay for a creative assignment and I expressed my desire to take a more creative route with it, he allowed me to write a screenplay instead, and I wrote over fifteen pages!
My plan after graduation was to audition for dance programs and companies and then pursue a dance career full-force. I applied to twelve schools and received acceptance letters to ten of them- all dream schools of mine- but in the midst of my senior year, I injured myself. I wasn’t able to physically audition, so I was never given the dance scholarships I needed to afford college.
I was given a full-tuition scholarship at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where I am close to receiving my associate’s degree in liberal arts. Though this change of plans was disappointing to me at first, I am actually making the most of my time there, because through courses such as Biology, Psychology, and Sociology, and in conversation with our Alumni Counselors Hazel and Alyssa, I’m discovering other talents that I never imagined, like my passion for mental health.
Many artists don’t know how to navigate criticism. This can cause them to abandon their art form and feel intimidated about ever returning. Although I still want to dance in and after college, I have learned that I also want to support other performers in their creative journey by providing them with a space for proper mental health care, something often underrated in the entertainment industry.
Now in my sophomore year, I’m planning to transfer to a university where I can be equipped with training, internships and relevant fieldwork to help me provide that kind of mental health support for other artists. After receiving a bachelor’s in psychology, I want to pursue a master’s degree in movement therapy.
I am confident I’ll be able to move toward my goals no matter what obstacles come in the future, in part because of the robust support I still receive from Inwood Academy. The Alumni Room gives me a space to concentrate on my studies, make plans for my future, and let off steam when I need to. This kind of support will continue to be important to me as I keep working toward a career in dance and mental health.
Dance has always been my outlet for combating lifes’ challenges. Facing my injury, in the end, helped me better understand my contribution to this world artistically. Through dance therapy I will be able to help other artists facing similar issues as I did in a more productive manner.