Blog: 2021 Andrew A. Isen Young Artist Gift Recipient for Signature in the Schools: Valeria Flores Siles
Valeria walked into Signature for the first time in September 2018 to audition for Signature in the Schools. A few weeks later, she found out she had been accepted into the program as an actor, and she described that day as “one of the top 5 best days of my life.”
More than two years later, during Valeria’s third year as a Signature in the Schools participant, she applied for the Andrew A. Isen Young Artist Gift, in which $2,500 is awarded to one participant each year for demonstrating excellence in their work; the Gift is to be used for educational purposes. A panel reviews applications to evaluate the applicants on the following criteria: growth, work ethic, contribution and future planning.
After the application and selection process, Valeria was chosen as the 2021 recipient of the Andrew A. Isen Young Artist Gift recipient for Signature in the Schools.
About Valeria Flores Siles
Although she was nervous to audition for the program in 2018, Valeria’s English teacher at Wakefield High School encouraged her to audition due to her love for theater. Valeria didn’t think her English was good enough since she had only recently moved to the United States from Bolivia. Just before she entered the audition room, her mother told her: “It is okay, you got this, just do your best.”
Valeria shared that, “Getting into Signature in the Schools, by far, changed the way I see theater and the world. In Bolivia, there are not many options to participate in theater activities, and the few existing are expensive and, unfortunately, underrated by society.” She also explained that she “started to dream about participating in a performance at school and continue doing theater. However, the language barrier limited me in many ways. I could not communicate my thoughts clearly and just be myself; I felt like an eagle in a cage.”
After joining Signature in the Schools, she explained that, “Signature became my shelter where I could be myself, mispronounce words, speak with my Bolivian accent without worrying about people laughing at me, and spent many evenings with people who understood my theater passion. Moreover, it opened another world, where theater is not just entertainment but a way to impact the world by leaving a lesson to the audience.”
After three years in the program, Valeria feels “more than proud to have been part of this great Signature family. After my first year in the program, my English improved in so many ways—I learned new words, and my speaking was more fluent. After all, I spent three hours every afternoon thinking, speaking, and living immersed in English. I still remember when I had to ask, “what does that word mean?” to the person next to me, or getting nervous when we had to do improvisation exercises, which now are my favorite activities! Also, my reading Lexile improved, and knowledge in American history improved immensely and helped me in my history classes. Signature enabled me to be better inside and outside the classroom.”
Valeria’s final thoughts about Signature in the Schools and the Andrew A. Isen Young Artist Gift:
“I will always carry all the lessons I had learned and strive for other future projects and productions. I want to continue advocating the change in our community for betterment using art and raising its importance. If I receive the Andrew A. Isen Gift, I would use it for my first year in college and it would be of considerable assistance to achieve my future goals.
I will never forget the first day I stepped into Signature with my monologue sheet in one hand and my dreams in the other. Little Valeria would never have thought I would have the opportunity to work in a professional theatre, learn so many things, and get a new family to lean on.”
Valeria was an actor in the Signature in the Schools’ world premiere plays during the following school years: 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21.
About the Andrew A. Isen Young Artist Gift