Opportunity scholarships one year later

  • Sia Were, one of the 140 young artists helped by the CREATE AMAZING Opportunities Challenge

  • Left to Right: Sia with director Lola (seated) and actors Lily and Parker in the one-act play "7 Minutes In Heaven"

  • Sia at her grandfather Humphreys’ farm with her mother, Anzetse

Sia Were [wer·Ã] is enthusiastic and dedicated, with a spirit to learn. But sometimes, passion, hope, and determination need nurturing. With the help of a scholarship through the Interlochen Annual Fund, she was able to cross the Atlantic and pursue her dream.

At 16, Sia’s passion for acting—and the 2018 Create Amazing Opportunities Challenge—brought her from Nairobi, Kenya to Interlochen, Michigan.

Sia’s family was instrumental in helping her find her way to Interlochen. It was her mother Anzetse, an economist and researcher, who first discovered Interlochen Arts Academy’s Theatre Arts program. Her grandparents, Miriam and Humphreys, are the source of her determination—something she has needed to brave the challenges of life in a far-away country.

More than 7,800 miles from home, Sia studies with artists who know little about her world. Nairobi is home to over 3 million people and over 100 major international companies and organizations. And even though it is also home to a large game reserve, the Nairobi National Park, “Lions are not wandering around my home,” Sia said.

Anzetse knew her daughter, with her openness to cultural and personality differences, would be a benefit to Interlochen Center for the Arts. She also knew that Sia’s single-minded focus on theatre would help her succeed. But first she had to get here.

The intent of last year’s Create Amazing Opportunities Challenge was to help young artists like Sia attend Interlochen Arts Camp or Interlochen Arts Academy. Trustee Dr. Mohamed El-Erian initiated a rally to increase scholarship support by expanding participation among supporters. His idea? With every new gift to the Interlochen Annual Fund—regardless of amount—he would add another $100.

The impact was tremendous.

More than 3,700 supporters raised an additional $2 million for scholarships—helping 140 young artists, including Sia, attend Interlochen. The challenge brought gifts in all shapes and sizes, including $1 from junior Camp students who donated their Melody Freeze money. In fact, the majority of supporters gave under $250. And more than 2,000 new supporters participated.

“Increasing scholarship support is vital to ensuring Interlochen is accessible to all promising young artists, regardless of financial means,” said Interlochen President Trey Devey. “A diverse student body enriches the experience for everyone at Interlochen and helps our student population to reflect the global world of art and culture.”

Sia made it to Interlochen, bringing her determined optimism with a “can do” attitude. Her mother hopes Sia will encourage her peers to keep pursuing their goals with a positive mindset. Thanks to the scholarship made possible by the success of the Opportunities Challenge, she gets a chance to pursue her dream and positively influence other students.

“I would like to thank everyone for contributing towards my dream and rewarding me with this unforgettable and exuberant adventure. I am immensely grateful,” Sia said.

She is interested in what goes into making a play as well as performing. This spring, she will be an assistant stage manager for the upcoming musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame, based on the Victor Hugo classic. She also performed in the student-run play Eight forty-six.

Through the Create Amazing Opportunities Challenge, thousands of heroes worldwide made gifts to help Sia—and 139 additional determined artists—find their adventure.

Creating opportunities for young artists near and far, regardless of their financial means, is a key priority for Interlochen Center for the Arts as it prepares for its second century. To make a gift to the Annual Fund and be a hero to tomorrow’s artists, please visit www.interlochen.org/give.

To learn more about Sia, visit her website where she shares experiences, photographs, and thoughts about acting, from technique to her favorite films.