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She says theater program ‘saved my life’

November 19, 2018

Rebecca Lenzo is thankful for the $1,000 Mead-Holm Memorial Scholarship she received from the Junior Art Park Players. More importantly, she appreciates how the program helped rescue her from depression and low self-esteem.

“It really saved my life,” said the 2015 graduate of Deer Park High School, who studies communication disorders at the University of Houston.

“I wouldn’t smile. I would hide my face behind my hair,” said Lenzo, 23. The daughter of Joseph and Shannon Lenzo of Deer Park said she “tried to stay under the radar” when she was in middle school in La Porte.

When bullying escalated from verbal taunts to getting pushed and kicked by other students, Lenzo’s mother took her out of school after sixth grade and enrolled her in summer theater classes operated by the Deer Park Parks & Recreation Department.

“It is the best thing she’s ever done for me,” said Lenzo. “It was a weight off my shoulder for other people to actually have fun being around me.”

Lenzo enjoyed singing and dancing and learning a Cockney accent. However, her happiness didn’t come overnight.

“There was one time, I was having a rough day,” she recalled. “I was crying out in the hall.”

The group’s artistic director, Susan Mele, comforted Lenzo.

“Miss Susan came and talked to me, and I told her everything,” Lenzo said. “She was so reassuring. She’s that way with everyone. She’s like another mom. She has such a passion for kids and taking care of people who are down on their luck.”

Lenzo hopes to be like Mele when she goes to work after graduating from college next spring.

“I thought about becoming a theater teacher, but recently I’ve become fascinated with speech pathology, especially aphasia,” she said.

The inability to communicate can occur suddenly after a stroke or head injury, Lenzo said.

In middle school, for reasons unknown to Lenzo, some students teased her about “talking funny.”

“It was weird,” she said. “They would look for anything, and they saw how that got to me. At lunch, I just wanted to eat and get away from them; so I would eat fast, and they started saying I ate like a pig.”

After two year of home-schooling and classes at Junior Art Park Players, Lenzo said she felt like a new person when she entered Deer Park High in ninth grade.

“I felt confident, and none of the people bothered me,” she said.

Lenzo has participated in every show since “Hello, Dolly!” in her first year at Art Park Players. Most recently, she portrayed a Nancy Reagan impersonator in last summer’s musical “The Wedding Singer.”

The Mead-Holm Memorial Scholarship has assisted more than 30 Junior Art Park Players with their college educations and provided part-time summer apprenticeship jobs for many high school students who have shown a keen interest in technical theater, Mele said.

For further information or to make a donation, call 281-478-7288 or visit www.deerparktx.gov.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net

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