Patricio Juarez has always been a writer.
When YPT's In-School Playwriting Program came to Patricio's eleventh grade English class in the fall of 2010, he was part of his school's poetry club. He had even had a few pieces published in a book of student poems released by local writing nonprofit, 826DC. He had never written a play, however, and was surprised to discover how quickly he picked up the art form.
"It was different, but I actually liked it!" Patricio laughs, sitting in YPT's studio on a chilly Wednesday afternoon. "I liked that I could write about what I wanted to."
The following year, when Patricio began his senior year at Bell Multicultural High School, he found himself thinking about writing another play. His former teaching artist (now YPT's Artistic Director) Nicole Jost told him about the Young Playwrights' Workshop, YPT's after-school student theater ensemble for eighth to twelfth graders. He signed up and spent the year writing and performing an original play with a group of his peers. Patricio soon found himself spending most of his spare time writing with YPT, loving the experience of collaborating on an original play. This October, Patricio began his second year as part of the Workshop.
"I think it's really helped me grow," Patricio explains. "Now when I write, I want to write about something going on in the world, like immigration. I want to break the stereotype that immigrants are aliens and shouldn't be here. A lot of people are close-minded and think that something bad will happen if we let other cultures in. But in reality we're the same, no matter where we're from."
Patricio used his passion for immigration rights as he developed his writing skills, focusing on the topic in most writing prompts and group discussions. This interest even helped Workshop members to focus on the issue in their final performance, Welcome to Our World, which focused on the idea of being alien and different.
In addition to helping him grow as a writer, Patricio has also noticed how much the Workshop has opened him up to his peers, both as a writer and a friend.
"I loved the fun little moments we had," he says, grinning at his memories of hilarious improv games and inspiring rehearsals. "When I wrote before, I used to not let people read it. Now I'm a lot more comfortable with that."
Patricio says that he hopes to one day become a professional writer. "Or maybe I'll work here, at YPT!"
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