Chicago College of Performing Arts

The Center for Arts Leadership is a newly launched center for empowering students and alumni of the Chicago College of Performing Arts through experiential learning and growth opportunities in community engagement, social justice and career development.

“Out of My Dreams and Into Reality” by Anja Racic (BFA Musical Theater Dance ’23)

Hey, everyone! My name is Anja Racic, and I am a rising sophomore studying Musical Theater (Dance Emphasis) at the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Now that I have submitted my final papers and finished my final exams, I cannot help but think about what a journey my first year of college has been. The people that I have met, the art that I have experienced, and the places I have been able to see are all the reasons that this first year of college has been a life-changing one.

Anja with friends

This year certainly did not end in a way that any of us planned. After nine weeks spent in self-isolation and online schooling, my life as a freshman pursuing a BFA in-person seems like a distant dream. Even though seeing my fellow students, studying with phenomenal educators, and exploring the city seems so distant right now, I look forward to the day that we are all together in the same room again, doing what we know how to do best: create

Other things that I thought I knew how to do were moving, chasing my dreams, and being independent. But then came August of 2019 and the time to start a new chapter of my life: COLLEGE. I grew up in Novi Sad, Serbia, and when I turned 15, I packed up my bags and moved 5,219 miles away to the small place of Rabun Gap in the mountains of Northern Georgia. That is where I would spend my next four years of high school, with occasional trips back home to visit my family. It was so easy for younger Anja to leave her life behind just to chase her dreams of becoming someone memorable.

Anja at age 15, starting high school

Anja at age 15, starting high school

Fast forward to a 19-year-old Anja who already had four years of living on her own, far away from her family, and yet she was absolutely terrified of packing her bags and moving only 700 miles away to Chicago. Starting college has proven to be a whole new ball game, but the only way for us to grow is to step out of our comfort zones. And oh, am I glad that I stepped out of mine!

My first year at CCPA brought me so many wonderful things. Despite my previous experiences traveling all around the world, I was still anxious about meeting new people. When I arrived, I found more than I could have ever hoped for; I had no idea that the people I met would turn into some of my closest friends in the world. I never believed that I could develop such personal and thorough relationships within only a matter of months, but my fellow MTDs are now my second family. Spending our time together in class and watching everyone overcome their own unique challenges has been the greatest gift of this program. All of my peers inspire me to discover my authentic self and confidently step into the future.

Anja and friends

When I was surveying colleges, I was determined to be in a big city. Like many young teenagers, New York was where I thought I wanted to be. Although things did not go the way I imagined it, I ended up in a city that is better than the Big Apple. I know, I know, this is a huge statement to make! But where can you find a city in which you can see professional performances for only 5 dollars? The answer is Chicago. For an aspiring artist such as myself, I cannot imagine a better place to be. I have had the opportunity to see a myriad of shows, each featuring unique performers and raw stories. The ability to observe great masters at work has allowed me to discover my potential as an artist. Chicago is a gift that keeps on giving.

All of us are fortunate to live in Chicago, but even more fortunate to be a part of this program and community. The CCPA community has welcomed the class of ‘23 with open arms and open hearts. The kindness of my peers and friends, along with the selflessness of our educators, has  given me a model for what I aspire to be. Character alone makes these people spectacular, but their acumen as performers only furthers my glowing opinion of them. The student performances that I had a chance to witness  were some of the most stellar I have ever seen. Each CCPA student is proof that hard work and perseverance pay off.

Theatre class

This year brought me memories that will last a lifetime. Visiting world-renowned museums, discovering new coffee shops, and meeting extraordinary people are just some of the reasons this year has been so wonderful. It is hard to stay optimistic during these uncertain times, but the thought of being back in school with my friends and teachers gives me hope that everything will be alright. This too shall pass, and once it is over, we will be back in the studios with a new wave of artistry.

CCPA Theater class of '23

Haley Henning • May 28, 2020

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