Jay's Galactic Espressions
As part of our childhood, many of us can relate to playing dress-up; the feeling of stepping into another persona, and immersing our imaginations in the idea of another world, another life, another story: Perhaps it was Cowboys and Indians, or Cops and Robbers. For me, it was also Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, Wonder Woman, and Leia from Star Wars.
Halloween has also been a favorite time for me. My mom, a gifted seamstress, would allow me to choose my character, and she would happily indulge me by fabulously creating the end result every time.
My homecoming and prom dresses in high school were also of my creation. I would imagine a design and color, and my mom and I would tailor my vision to perfection.
I was very fortunate to have that upbringing, and to inherit the skill of creativity from my mom. To this day, sewing, crafting and cosplay have permeated the essence of my being; not just in my personal life, but in my 23-year career as a high school teacher of Family and Consumer Sciences.
I have never grown out of my love of dress-up, nor my passion for stepping into that other persona. Sometimes I do it just for fun. Sometimes I do it as a way to be goofy with my students.
The best part about cosplay is doing it to give back to others.
My first taste of ‘cosplay for a cause’ was in the summer before my senior year in high school. Our local Chamber of Commerce was having a car show to raise money for a charity purpose, and I was among several volunteers who performed a lip-sync act as part of the entertainment. I was Madonna…
In August of 2014, I did a guest blog for Star Wars KidsCast about some of my more recent adventures with cosplay and volunteering. Just last week, I had the opportunity to once again cosplay for a cause: Star Wars Reads Day 2015.
Part of my teaching job includes being the adviser for a chapter of the national organization F.C.C.L.A. (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America). It is a service-based leadership organization for students in grades 9-12. Our focus is on community service, career building and leadership for the future. Because ‘Family’ is our first name, we really try to choose as many service projects as possible that focus on strengthening family relationships and functionality.
This year, as we were brainstorming ideas for community service, I mentioned Star Wars Reads Day to my students as a possible activity. They grasped the idea and ran with it! Needless to say, I was so happy. I had already planned to be Ahsoka from the last season of Star Wars:The Clone Wars, so having my students jump on board was an incredible feeling.
With administrative and staff blessings, several F.C.C.L.A. members and I ended up planning a field trip to the three Kindergarten classes of one of our local elementary schools. We went on October 9, 2015 the day before the official SWRD.
My students were dressed in Star Wars costumes, or Star Wars t-shirts. I provided the entire wardrobe, and my students changed into costume before we left. I decided not to dress in costume for this event, but to allow my students to take center-stage.
We followed a particular Agenda for each presentation, and gave out “goodies” to each student, including a toilet-paper roll/balloon lightsaber, certificate, bookmark, and a headband that my students made (Yoda for boys, Leia for girls).
The teachers, staff and students at the elementary were so appreciative, and my students were on such a natural high from their volunteerism, that they had full-out lightsaber battles in my classroom when we got back to the high school!
I invited our local newspaper to cover the event. I feel it is important for students to see themselves being recognized as an essential resource in our community. It is an empowering experience for everyone involved.
Our adventures continued at the County Library on Saturday, and this time I became Ahsoka Tano. My students headed-up Star Wars-themed crafts, interacted with kids and their parents, and led a ‘Jedi Training Academy' in the Story Time Room. I was mainly a presence, helping my students in their activities, but mainly doing what I do best: transforming into a character and leaving myself behind for a few hours.
It’s always an amazing feeling to volunteer, but the feeling is magnified tenfold when I can do it as a Star Wars character! Everyone is always lighthearted, appreciative, and so happy when I interact with them and their children. I can feel the positive energy and euphoria of those I am able to help, and it truly feeds my soul, in turn.
I am thankful to have these experiences, and look forward to participating in more charity and volunteer activities. In December, I have been asked to appear as Ahsoka at a Star Wars-themed fundraising benefit for a kidney transplant patient. Of course, I said “yes,” and am so excited to once again be involved in giving back to someone in need!
I am sure I will be having fun with costumes for a long, long time. I may be getting older, but I refuse to grow up. ‘Cosplaying for a cause’ not only allows me the ability to feed my inner kid, but to give back in the process. It truly is the best of both worlds!
Thank you for joining me on my adventures!
Contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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