Runaway to College and join the Circus! By Nena Woo

As associate producer of the 2nd Annual International College Circus Festival in Ludlow, KY and coach at Circus Mojo, I am motivated to help kids see the opportunities to achieve their dreams. Two months ago I started as a tightwire coach. 1959711_10152204751108758_482644982_n-2In a short amount of time I learned much about the everyday struggles and personal dreams for several of the Ludlow circus students who live below the poverty level. Inside and outside of circus practice I built a level of trust with them and am now acting as a college mentor. Our conversations have inspired me to plan an educational trip for these kids to Illinois State University.

Along with Dr. Louis Kutcher from the University of Cincinnati, I will take six Circus Mojo students grades 6-12 on a college field trip on Friday, April 11th – Saturday, April 12th.

The overnight itinerary includes:

  • Free tickets to the Gamma Phi Circus (the oldest collegiate circus in North America) with a backstage tour
  • Official admissions presentation with a campus and residence hall tour
  • Visit to ISU’s Special Collections
  • Meals provided by ISU’s Campus Dining Services, Avanti’s Italian Restaurant, Krogar, and Trader Joe’s

1796616_10152204747323758_297283133_nHaving worked both in college admissions and circus training for youth, I have seen how circus has impacted kids physically, mentally, and academically. I worked for Circus Mojo and the Social Circus Foundation, Meirmanov Sports Acrobatics, Trapeze School New York Chicago, the Junior Gamma Phi Circus, and the Skokie Park District Circus Camp, and performed with the Gamma Phi Circus, Circo Rose and the Acrofabulous Circus. Through my career in admissions and free time, I have mentored, academically coached, and advised students on preparing for and successfully completing college.

My struggles as a first generation, low-income college student have motivated me to expose opportunities and strategies to kids that lack the resources that provide college as an option. Illinois State University and the Gamma Phi Circus are my alma maters. As the first in my family, I graduated from ISU with a degree in public relations and experience as the Gamma Phi Circus’s first PR intern, president of 2011, act captain, and other leadership roles.

10006438_10152313719337328_15732258_nFor the Circus Mojo students, I hope to grow their interest in attending college and understanding the opportunity to earn a degree while practicing something they are passionate about, circus. Students have already expressed enthusiasm for the trip in their numerous questions about college, ISU, and the Gamma Phi Circus. On Wednesday, a few of the students on spring break spent two hours at Circus Mojo asking questions about ISU and watching my videos of the Gamma Phi Circus. My intention is to encourage students to understand the importance of preparing for their futures before and during their high school careers. It is very fulfilling to see kids as young as 6th grade get excited about discovering college as a fun opportunity to strive for. I truly believe the trip to ISU will enlighten the Circus Mojo kids and spark a fire in their hearts to believe in themselves and achieve their dreams. 1533881_10152077423948758_1694004356_n

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