Raising your voice
Mikaela Ochocki will now be in charge of a voice much larger than her own.
The rising Wilsonville High School senior was selected to chair the 2019-20 Oregon State Thespian Officer (STO) Board — a group of six student representatives who are part of the student-centered organization that works to organize and implement opportunities for Oregon theater students throughout the year.
Essentially, Ochocki is WHS's ambassador to the state board, holding the highest position a student thespian can achieve in Oregon.
As an STO, Ochocki is expected to attend up to five board meetings throughout the year in Portland and major events including regionals, state and Camp Thespis — a leadership camp for drama club officers.
"I think the opportunity of having someone in your high school that's an STO, you can make other people aware that it's not a far-fetched goal," Ochocki said. "You can reach for it and I think people should."
Last year, Ochocki applied to be an STO — students apply and those selected campaign at the state thespian festival in April and give a speech about goals and ways to improve and grow the theater program in schools. Ochocki was selected to serve as vice chair for the 2018-19 school year.
"When they campaign they have to give a speech to everybody at state. It's about 1,300 students at state so it's as many people as the Elsinore Theatre in Salem fits," said WHS Theater Director Jason Katz. "It's a pretty big honor. It's a big deal going into this year."
Ochocki said being an STO is a great leadership opportunity and she valued her experience last year because she met students who shared the same passion as her from around the state.
This year, there are three STO's from the Northeast region, one from Northwest and two from the Southern region of Oregon.
"We serve as the student voice and bridge between the adult members that plan activities," Ochocki said. "Adults are the ones that are in charge of financing and making sure we have the resources to do everything but were the ones who are going in and being like, 'This is what students want; this is what we think would serve them best; this is how we can do it.'"
Last year when Ochocki ran, she had an idea to have thespians connect over social media through a centralized account, though because of people's busy schedules, that was not a focus. Instead, she focused on fundraising and set up beneficiaries for regional and state competitions. All three regions donated about $1,000 to a charity that was helping aid the damage caused by California wildfires. At the state level, Ochocki started a feminine hygiene drive, where about 30,000 products were donated to shelters in Oregon.
"That was really cool to see schools come together," she said.
This year, Ochocki hopes to help the other STO's carry out their goals or shift them, if they're not working.
And that's one of Ochocki's favorite aspects about being at STO: the collaboration. She said she values communicating with other thespians to see what their theater departments are doing, so she can bring ideas back to WHS on ways to improve.
Ochocki also wants to help spread awareness about Oregon Thespians to more southern schools, an area she thinks is more uneducated about the resources offered at the state level.
One of her goals is to induct two to five new troops this year, making sure the schools' theater programs have resources and are aware of the benefits of being involved.
"Thespians in general have grown a lot over the last 10 years. It's hard to believe there's high schools that have theater programs in Oregon that wouldn't know about it because as it grows, it seems to keep attracting more and more but if you're away or you're down south somewhere, I'm sure there's plenty of high schools that it's just not even on their radar or they don't have the resources but they start getting involved," Katz said. "I think for the kids, like them getting together with the other kids seems to be the number one thing."
For more information about Oregon Thespians, visit www.oregonthespians.org.
"I'm so thankful everyday that I get to do it and I can still be involved at Wilsonville theater and even do outside opportunities like (performing in) 'Matilda' this summer and just have more opportunities to meet more people in the field of work that I'm passionate about," Ochocki said.
Ochocki is acting in the ensemble in Roald Dahl's "Matilda, The Musical," which runs from July 12 to Aug. 18 at Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego. For more information and tickets, visit https://www.lakewood-center.org.
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