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#GivingTuesday Student Stories

'Tis the season of giving! One of AWP's gifts to you is an inside look at what it means to be a student of AWP, to be a family member, and to be a creative eager to generate positive change in the world! #GivingTuesday is a day designated to help nonprofits and organizations around the world raise funds to support their programming, if you are able, all donations are tax deductible and go towards the AWP Scholarship fund so you can hear more stories like the ones below!


Adult Acting Classes, Camp Counselor, Volunteer

What does AWP mean to you?

AWP to me, means love and acceptance and family. The most important thing I’ve learned is that being yourself can take you a long way.

How would you describe AWP to somebody that hasn't heard of it before?

I would plain and simply say “Do you want to be in a place where you won’t get judged or won’t get looked down on, somewhere where you can be yourself fully, that’s what AWP is!”

If you could relive one moment from your time with AWP, what would it be?

Definitely SpongeBob! I loved being part of a cast again and being on stage, it was amazing and truly a moment in my life I will never forget!

How has your time with AWP affected your life outside of performing?

It made me see the world a little differently, it’s shown me there truly is something called a second family.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on becoming a better actor and performer and being myself on screen.

What are your biggest dreams and goals?

Hands down biggest dream is to be a superhero in a marvel or DC and to be on a hit tv show.



Acting Classes and Shows

What does AWP mean to you?

AWP has brought so much more joy to my life. I made new friends, created short films, I have an AMAZING teacher, and learned more tips in order to be a better actress. It’s also such a fun place to be where everyone is extremely kind and they all make me feel seen for not what I do but for who I am.

What is the most important thing you learned, discovered or gained during your time at AWP?

The most important thing I’ve learned from AWP is that it’s okay to be yourself and to embrace who you are because you're unique in your own way.

How would you describe AWP to somebody that hasn't heard of it before?

I would tell them AWP is a place for anyone who’s interested in the entertainment industry, it’s extremely fun, everyone is so welcoming, and you gain so much more knowledge about the acting world than you did before.

If you could relive one moment from your time with AWP, what would it be?

I would most definitely relive the days that we shot short films. It was my first short film. I made new friends and got to be apart of something incredibly special. I will never forget that day.

How has your time with AWP affected your life outside of performing?

If it weren’t for AWP, I probably wouldn’t know too much about how to successfully book a project. I’ve learned how to perfect my craft and be a better performer because of AWP and I will forever be grateful for that opportunity.

What are you currently working on?

I’m still auditioning for more projects, but I have my first TV pilot coming VERY SOON😊!!!!

What are your biggest dreams and goals?

My biggest goal is to just be happy. I would love to do what makes me happy for the rest of my life which is acting. One day I hope to expand my range and become a filmmaker or a cinematographer. I’ve always dreamed of working on BIG MOVIES with my favorite actors. I also just want my mom to always be there to witness it all happen because I wouldn’t be acting if it weren’t for her love and support.



Adult Acting Classes, Camp Counselor, Volunteer, and Live Performances

What does AWP mean to you?

AWP to me means family and love.

What is the most important thing you learned, discovered or gained during your time at AWP?

I've learned so much about the entertainment industry and I've also gained more knowledge on the craft of acting but also in my personal life I've discovered myself and my confidence because AWP has created a safe space for me to not only be myself but to also learn and make mistakes without feeling ashamed or stupid.

How would you describe AWP to somebody that hasn't heard of it before?

AWP is a second home and a place where you can come to not only learn how to act, sing, write, or direct but most importantly it's a place where you will make friends who will feel like family and support you in whatever career you are trying to pursue.

If you could relive one moment from your time with AWP, what would it be?

I would relive adult camp, it was one of the most fun times of my life, I really enjoyed it a lot and it was such a life changing time in my life.

(TW: suicide)

How has your time with AWP affected your life outside of performing?

AWP has given me a family that loves and cares for me because prior to AWP I dealt with a lot of depression and suicidal thoughts but because of AWP I've grown as a human being and gained a lot of happiness and its all thanks to the AWP family. Also it has helped me gain confidence in myself and my craft of acting and to be honest if it wasn't for AWP idk if I would be here, that's how much this program has effected my life.

What are you currently working on?

I'm currently working on my craft in acting and being prepared so when I get an agent I'm as ready as possible to book and I'm also working on becoming a director and what comes with the job.

What are your biggest dreams and goals?

My biggest dream is to be an actor because it's my passion and thanks to AWP I wanna pursue it no matter how hard I have to work and how long it takes. Also, I'm working on becoming a director for the stage and the screen because I wanna create more opportunity's for those of color while also making an impact on the entertainment industry.



Senior & Professional Company Member, Classes, Workshops, Camper, and Camp Counselor

What does AWP mean to you?

AWP will always be my second home. Everyone there is so welcoming and truly made me feel loved and accepted. I’ve learned how to be a better performer, student, actress, but most importantly… they taught me how to be a good human. I truly don’t know where I would be today if it weren’t for AWP, the lessons, memories, and friendships that i’ve gained in my time there. I really think of Lynn,Don, and Ashlyn as my second family and am so grateful that I have them in my life. If it weren’t for AWP, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today, fulfilling my dreams.

What is the most important thing you learned, discovered or gained during your time at AWP?

It’s okay to be different.

How would you describe AWP to somebody that hasn't heard of it before?

Home away from home.

If you could relive one moment from your time with AWP, what would it be?

Getting to perform in Disney World with the whole company.

How has your time with AWP affected your life outside of performing?

AWP is the reason that I'm performing as much as I am. They helped me to understand and learn that I have what it takes to be successful, I just have to work at it and not give up.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently in College to major in Musical Theatre and I just booked a role in a film!

What are your biggest dreams and goals?

To be able to perform on stage and in tv/film so that I can help to continue spreading AWPs mission: to change the world one audience at a time.



Student, Camper, Camp Counselor

There is no day like Giving Tuesday to celebrate those who do the most good in the world. In my short 27 years on the planet thus far, the most formative and impactful experiences have come from being “raised” by my time at the Atlanta Workshop Players. I may not have stayed in the Entertainment Industry, or ever really intended to in the first place, but I got far more out of the experience with AWP than I ever expected to.

I remember my first day at AWP like it was this morning. I was only a timid 11-year-old who lacked confidence, social skills, and truthfully kindness, too. Upon one class with Lynn Stallings, my entire world spun into a new orbit. Every class after, I just knew I needed to absorb more and more information, not only about the performing arts, but about everything that you gain out of a course with AWP. You gain skills in interviewing, social skills, building positive and healthy relationships with others, how to learn from your mistakes, how to speak positively, emotional intelligence, workplace skills, how to love fully, the importance of diversity, and how to love with your whole heart. This was a place you could enter feeling any variety of emotion and leave feeling like your cup was overflowing with joy.

During many of my classes, we would begin by discussing things we did for both our careers and for others that week, and we would be inspired to go above and beyond to come up with amazing things we could do for both. I grew up being fortunate enough to attend classes and camps on regular basis. I learned skills like how to manage my time having a busy after school schedule while still maintaining straight A’s, while being severely neurodivergent (although I didn’t learn this piece until I was much later in life). I learned how to be responsible for a group of 10 or more campers on my own. I learned valuable transferable skills for the job market such as interviewing. I even learned a skill that I use frequently in parenting: How to speak in the positive, not in the negative. (I.e., how to instruct people on what to do, instead of what not to do).

On a more personal note, when I was a teenager, you can imagine the emotional dysregulation that comes with that time in your life. Add the personal element of going through a divorce within my family, AWP became my self-care, my creative outlet, and my therapy. This is when I feel AWP, and in particular, the Stallings Family, and many of my other close AWP friends I had made over the years, truly became family to me. Without question, they became a backbone and a rock for me during a time when I had nowhere else to turn. They pushed me through the most difficult season of my life thus far (at that point) and had me in forward motion. I am forever grateful for the kindness they showed me and the unmatched support I received. They showed me what true friendship and what chosen family looks like. I aspire to be that type of family and friend for anyone who needs it. That is truly what AWP is. It is family. It is friendship. It is a home. It is lifting you up when you need it. It is therapy. It is emotional intelligence. It is coping with your darkest season. It is the Stallings Home for Wayward Actors. It is showing a terrified 16-year-old what healthy relationships and friendships look like when her world felt so gloom and doom.

I graduated high school in 2014 but took every chance I could to come back and visit my theatrical home. Every moment of nostalgia is soaked in like a sponge, even when I go back to visit today. My adult life has taken me on so many adventures, such as moving to New York City at age 18, then 9 months later moving to warm and sunny Florida to finish my undergraduate education. However, you can see AWP’s quiet “change-the-world" influence throughout my career.

In 2017, I spent a semester interning for Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World. I took a chance and did it. While it was an eye-opening leap, I learned a lot. That summer in between the internship and returning to school, I had an opportunity to audition for the Murder Mystery Company touring theatre troupe, Florida Division, a popular dinner show in the area. I had not even thought about returning to a theatre environment since leaving AWP. In my head, I had swirling thoughts saying, “real theatre isn’t like AWP”, “this isn’t the same thing,” “I am not a real real actor,” “I haven’t performed in years,” etc. I sat in the parking lot, contemplating if I should just go home or not. One last thought entered my mind, “If Lynn were here right now, what would she have told me to do?” and I heard her, clear as day telling me to, “Go for broke, have fun, and just enjoy it.” I remember on a hot, rainy, and steamy afternoon, stepping out of my Honda CR-V at a theatre in Tampa, Florida to attend this miscellaneous audition. I walked in, full of confidence that I found somewhere between my car and the door. Somehow, I landed a spot in the troupe. Little did I know, three months later, my future husband, Cory McElwee, would land his spot in the troupe, too. Cory and I would then travel across Florida together performing whacky characters in some of the most fun shows for the next two years as cast mates, friends, roommates, boyfriend and girlfriend, then fiancés. We would make memories to last a lifetime. All thanks to the

imaginary peptalk I received in my car from Lynn Stallings and the training I once received from AWP.

In 2019, we decided to retire from the troupe due to personal reasons. We became engaged, focused on careers, began planning a wedding, etc. We never lost our creative zest, however. In 2020, we learned our darling daughter, Marlee was on the way. After our immediate family, four of the first people to find out were originally AWP friends turned into family. After our original wedding date had to be canceled due to the pandemic, we had the opportunity to replan our wedding to a “production” theme. The number of AWP elements involved, and AWP people present who made it abundantly special, including AWP’s own Ashlyn Stallings officiating, Don Stallings and Costa Johnson as Flower Dudes, and the Bowman clan also serving as bridal party members; there was no shortage of special AWPhamily Members present. Not to mention, there were countless more on zoom! AWP has been present throughout more than half of my life now. We are back to living in Northwest Atlanta with our daughter and our animals.

Professionally, I mentioned I did not choose a path of creativity. But I did choose a path of making the world a better place, very closely tied to AWP’s mission. My first job out of college was working as a Mental Health First Responder in the Tampa Bay Area. My unit would receive calls of active suicidal ideations and respond in real time to these threats of harm to evaluate for danger to self or others. After this, I began working for Child Protective Services for three years in both Investigations and in Foster Care. After we moved back to Georgia, I decided to return to Mental Health, where I now work for an app for Teens called BeMe Health, which is a live platform where teens can write in for one on one mental health assistance. They can connect with me or another member of my staff if they are seeking help. This has been my most fulfilling job so far, as I have been able to work with a higher volume of individuals at a time. Since April 2022, I’ve worked with over 1770 teens live on our platform dealing with all types of woes and teaching them lots of emotional intelligence type skills. My supervisors have recognized the more creative side and begun giving me additional opportunities to exercise that if I so choose, as well. I am also back in school working towards my Master's Degree in Clinical Social Work with a concentration in Social Justice at Arizona State University online with an aspiration to one day get a doctoral degree in this field.

It is extra important to me now that AWP be passed on to my children as they grow up. It has instilled values that I carry with me through my career and throughout my life. It has given me a purpose and a sense of self. It has given me friendships and family members I would be lost without, even throughout my adulthood. That is why #GivingTuesday is important to me. AWP is more than just a performing arts home. It is a place where children, teens, and young people can learn values, find family, and learn valuable skills. It is a place where they can grow up and be raised by a village of kindhearted people. It is a place where they can truly find joy. It is a place where they can find values. It is a place where they can grow intellectually, emotionally, and creatively. It is a place where they can call home when home may not be emotionally safe, or their home is emotionally safe, but a second home is never a terrible thing for anyone!

Current Projects:

“Every Child Returns Home” Project, Improv Training to End Gun Violence

Building a Course to Reduce Birth Trauma


​You can be part of the next generation of change makers by donating this #GivingTuesday! Every donation of every size helps students grow and supports their voices to tell the stories that matter to them.

YOU can be part of that magic.

Special thank you to Aaron Arquimedes Hernandez, Ally McElwee, Ansley Lloyd, Chloe Flowers and Scarlette Amber Hernandez for sharing their stories. Thank you also to AWP team member, Costa Johnson, for creating the interview questions.

Want to share your story? Email


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