Make a Change

Make a Change

Micaela Davidson, Section Editor

Walking by the same graffitied wall every day is not always encouraging. A once beautiful pathway in Massachusetts that was destroyed by vandals was simply left alone. One day, a group of performers came, stayed with host families in the town, and set out to make a difference. After painting an extensive mural over the graffitied wall, they came back the next day only to find that it the mural had been graffitied over again. The group of young adults could have easily been discouraged and given up. Instead, they grabbed the paint and started once more, painting over with one simple message, “Make a Change.” Apparently, the message was received, because a few days later the wall had stayed the same: clean and inspiring.

Where did this selfless act come from? The cast of Up With People. There, in Massachusetts, they started out a six month adventure. They spent all of their time performing shows and helping communities with volunteer work through community impact projects, showing they would not back down. They would do everything in their power to make a change.

Dylan Sprague, a graduate from Woodland Park High School, was a part of this inspiring 100 person cast that went on to make a huge impact around the world. (To find out more about how Dylan first got involved read Emily Allen’s article from last year at…)

According to Dylan, the beautiful things about Up With People are all the relationships formed.

“I love how many opportunities you have to connect with people,” Sprague smiled. He spoke about how he is still in contact with his first host family in Massachusetts. In places like Taiwan, he had to find ways to communicate with his host father through hand motions and lots of smiles. The cast is not just thrown into a new country blindly, there is always a briefing on what to expect, how to act, and manners from the country they are visiting. He explained that quite often they experience reverse culture shock when returning to the states, “You start getting used to the things where you were and then you come back and need to adjust again.”

There was even a language barrier in the cast, but, as Sprague explained, “Communication isn’t just speaking. Some people didn’t speak English, but learned throughout the tour. We communicate with broken language and a lot of charades. Social cues that are normal here are not in other countries, and vise versa.”

As for a favorite place from the trip, it was hard for him to say.

“Each place is so different and cool,” he paused and thought for a moment. “I definitely have favorite memories…. Connections with children in the slums. That moment is so different then performing for the president of Taiwan. Everything is so different; it’s hard to choose a favorite.”

“Being in the slums changed a lot. It changed my view on what is important. All the values are so different. That’s a big thing on connections. In Manila it rocked what I considered normal.”

One of the things Sprague confessed was that at times they would be doing something as simple as painting a fence, and he was really confused by this because in his mind he saw the cast doing so much more, making a huge impact, and painting a fence seemed silly compared to other projects they did. He quickly realized that he wasn’t just painting a fence, he was making a difference to that community.

“We are showing people that we care. And that was biggest thing. It’s not about what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it: with an open heart.”

“Up With People was everything I was expecting and more. More than I could ever imagine. It was unbelievable. Everything about it, the performing, traveling, and helping… it was made for me.”

Dylan set out on his second semester with Up With People mid January. He looks forward to traveling in Europe and the experiences that await him. He will surely make a change wherever he goes.