By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager
Kayla Gilchrist walked a path that led her to Big Thought’s Creative Solutions. But at first, she had no idea this is where she was headed.
The 21-year-old from Keller, Texas, a soon-to-be-senior at Prairie View A&M University, is an ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program Intern with Creative Solutions, a respected program that teaches performing and visual arts to juveniles convicted of a crime. Gilchrist initially wanted to intern at the South Dallas Cultural Center, but there were no openings. Harold Steward, manager of South Dallas Cultural Center, led her to the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program website. It was there that she found Big Thought’s Creative Solutions.
Gilchrist, majoring in mass communications with a minor in theater arts, felt Creative Solutions was a perfect fit, since her passion is theater, particularly acting with some singing and dancing. She has performed in middle school, high school, college, and community theater productions.
“This is why I jumped at the chance to come to Big Thought,” says Gilchrist, “because they are teaching these kids through the performing and visual arts.”
Her job centers on Creative Solutions’ Summer Program at Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts. Gilchrist is part of the CS administrative staff. She supervises files for 60-80 students, takes attendance, puts together paperwork for Big Thought contractors including the Dallas County Juvenile Department, participates in sessions, and mentors students in performing arts. Yet perhaps most importantly, Gilchrist lends a sympathetic ear for kids who need to talk. She gives them support.
Gilchrist took a break from her Creative Solutions duties at SMU to talk about a job experience she says she will never forget.
How do you feel during those sessions with the kids?
“I feel this work is extremely important; stuff like this changes their life. They like to talk, it makes them feel better. One of them said that me and [Creative Solutions teaching artist] Alejandro Perez, Jr. are the people that make them smile. This program gives them something to do; it keeps them out of trouble. This is giving back to the community. It’s awesome watching them discover their hidden talents.”
What does art mean to you, especially in relation to Creative Solutions?
“I always knew that art could be impactful, but now I see that art can change anybody. They are just normal kids and coming here and finding this art and finding their hidden talent is really enlightening. Creative Solutions gives me a different perspective on inner city youth. It really changed my perspective.”
How crucial is the Creative Solutions safe haven for these kids?
“Sometimes they feel safer and better here than at home. For many of them there is no comfort and freedom to make art at home. Here they have it. They open up. They can be themselves. They realize, ‘I’m good at something.’”
How did you find your own talent?
“When I was just starting out I was dabbling. It wasn’t really until my theater arts teacher and my parents believed I could do it that I truly realized it. They gave me validation, and sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you in order for you to believe in yourself.”
Do you feel like you were meant to work with these kids, to be part of Creative Solutions?
“I feel like I am a role model for these kids. To whom much is given, much is required. I feel like I was led here for a reason. If I ever write about my life, I will definitely write about this experience.”
Big Thought thanks the following donors for their generous support of Creative Solutions: Dallas County Juvenile Department, Dallas County Juror’s Fund, Anonymous, Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts, ExxonMobil Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. David Chortek, Ms. Serena Simmons Connelly, Mr. Tom Connelly, Elizabeth Toon Charities, Hillcrest Foundation, The M.R. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation, Mr. Jay Judas, Texas Bar Foundation, The Junior League of Dallas, TurningPoint Foundation, Katherine C. Carmody Charitable Trust, Ms. Eliza Solender, Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and The Ellen Wood Fund.