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Alumni Spotlight: Jordan Schwartz

21CL Alumna Jordan Schwartz is a graduate of Atlanta Girls’ School (2011), of Bryn Mawr College (2015) and of University of Oregon (2017). She is a veteran stage actress and producer that began acting in 2nd grade and has appeared in about 32 productions. She is the founder of The Children’s Bilingual Theater, a student run theatrical outreach that since 2004 has been bringing bilingual programming to venues in the metro Atlanta area. The Children’s Bilingual Theater has produced 6 bilingual musicals and 15 storytelling and literacy events and has lead more than 200 volunteers as cast and crew that have reached over 6000 audience members. Jordan is also one of our 2008 Georgia Youth Leadership Award recipients and currently works as Associate Producing Director at Fonseca Theater Company in Indianapolis.

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now.

I am Associate Producing Director, Fonseca Theater Company. In addition to logistical support of our main season (contracts, schedules, etc.), a lot of my focus is on nurturing our community and educational programs. Right now, we offer a youth drama class for ages 6-12, where students develop their own original play based on a theme – our most recent class focused on mysteries and detective stories. I also handle a range of daily administrative things within finance, development, and marketing.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

I was a Georgia Youth Leadership Award recipient in 2008; a lot has happened since then. After graduating from high school in 2011, I went to Bryn Mawr College from where I graduated in 2015 and then went on to the University of Oregon and in 2017 received my Master’s in Arts Administration with a concentration in Performing Arts Management.  After graduation, I joined the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis as Director of Literary Programs and Outreach. In 2018, Bryan Fonseca the Producing Director Emeritus of the Phoenix Theatre launched Fonseca Theatre Company and I joined this venture as Associate Producing Director and have the honor of also being an artistic director. The innovative structure of the company includes four artistic directors working with Bryan to bring diversity and inclusion from the arts community. The mission of the new theater is to “give voice to the disenfranchised in our community. The sharing of culture is essential to our nation’s health, and we will focus on work by and/or about minority artists to bring together the city’s growing minority communities.”

How did 21CL prepare you for your next steps? Going into college and taking on leadership roles, heading into a new era of professionalism, etc. What skills/tools/perspectives have helped you along the way?

The experiences and opportunities from 21st Century Leaders gave me the tools to continue on my learning and career paths. Leveraging Diversity is the most important skill I learned from 21CL. My work with The Fonseca Theatre Company brings my vision and work with The Children’s Bilingual Theater to a wonderful intersection. Our educational program is roughly 60 percent Latino, 30 percent African American, and 10 percent White/Other. Being culturally-focused, our shows have also brought together some of the most diverse audiences in the city and engaged a lot of first-time theatre-goers. Our collective reflects the community, and it’s important for folks to be able to see themselves reflected in an organization and on stage and being well received by minority artists’ community is very fundamental to my driving force. Art and culture are so deeply connected and working on a project rooted in your own experience makes for a better artistic product and a more satisfying process. Several of our artists have identified their experience with us as among the most impactful in their careers, both artistically and professionally.

What was a memorable or ‘aha’ moment in 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peers, speaking in public for the first time, etc.?

It was wonderful getting to meet all the other motivated high school students across Georgia and hearing about the amazing work they were doing! Digging into community work and specific projects can be all-encompassing, and 21CL was an important reminder of the other talented young people working to make the world better. The experience was both motivating and empowering, but also humbling and I just know everyone from 21CL has gone on to do amazing things!

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? if so how? And have you recently learned something else about leadership? Please share!

Leveraging Diversity has been my foremost guiding principle. As an arts advocate and community leader and especially as a young woman of color that lives with a congenital disability (I was diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome when I was 12 years old) I have a unique voice and have acquired a body of experience to share with other youth! I continue to use art to advocate and to give voice to the disenfranchised in our community. The sharing of culture is essential to our nation’s health, and I focus on work by and/or about minority artists to bring together minority communities. I have lived in Philadelphia as a college undergraduate, had jobs, volunteered, had fun, moved to Eugene Oregon for grad school, worked, volunteered and went to football games, traveled to seminars in Portland, St Louis, Chicago, Boston, Orlando and have always found a way and that is what I would like to convey to future 21CL youth. Find a way and find your way!