PHOTO: Matthew Gaulin
Age: 19 • Freshman at Southeastern University in Lakeland
I had very little self-confidence when I was growing up. I had big ears and wore the Steve Urkel glasses. I was the Ugly Duckling. I was not very good in sports and my peers teased me. I had a hard time finding anything I was good at.
That all changed when I joined Carver Middle School’s theater program as an eighth-grader. I began acting in plays and played the role of characters who were supremely confident. I discovered I was a very confident person on stage, and that confidence continued growing outside of acting.
During my four years at Leesburg High School, I performed for Melon Patch Theatre, Tropic Troupe Children’s Theatre and Carousel Theatre Productions.
As a member of Carousel Theatre Productions in Leesburg, I performed in “Beauty and the Beast” at the Atlanta Junior Theater Festival last January. Walt Disney World executives attended the event and saw my performance. Afterward, they asked me to audition to film a choreography and demonstration DVD on how to perform the “Lion King Jr.” play. Around 500 young actors auditioned, and I was one of 24 selected.
I spent two weeks in New York City filming the DVD, which is an instructional video that explains how to perform the dances, music, choreography and languages to “Lion King Jr.” in easy-to-follow segments. I was assigned the lead role of Mufasa. It was an honor to be around so many talented people, and every day I kept asking myself, “Am I really doing this?”
I currently live in Lakeland, but I come back to Lake County on Wednesdays for choir rehearsal at First Presbyterian Church of Leesburg. I also come back every weekend because I’m a youth leader at Lady Lake Assembly of God.
I am double majoring in voice performance and practical ministry. My minor is acting.
Rather than pursue a career in acting, I want to come back to Lake County after I graduate college and become a life coach. I want to help young people discover their divine design so they can blossom in life. Two years ago, I would have definitely said I would pursue a career in acting and singing. However, when God calls you to do something you do it. He wants to use me in Lake County to inspire others.
I would also like to form a summer performing arts camp in Leesburg because there isn’t much to do here for teenagers. It would entail band, singing and acting. There would be an end-of-the-year banquet where each artist showcases his or her talent.
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Shining star: Ja’Quan, an actor, performed in 22 shows throughout high school.
Ace in the hole: Ja’Quan is a 2014 Leesburg High School graduate. Through his successes, he wants to be a “shining light in a dark generation.” [/notification]