"At the end of the day, what matters is that you write with passion."
Berta Gonzalez saw her dreams brought to life onstage, then made them a reality for herself.
In 2005, Berta was a student at Bell Multicultural High School when YPT's In-School Playwriting Program came to her classroom. "I thought it was fascinating," she recalls. "It was really cool to see that support for students to write plays." Berta, who wrote poetry in her own time, embraced the opportunity to write her first theatrical piece, Learning to Say Goodbye.
To find inspiration for her play, Berta didn't have to look far. "I was writing about what it is to go to college, what does that mean for a Hispanic family," she says. "It's a culture where [women] are expected to leave home when we're getting married ... so for me to leave - it was a big deal in my household." Learning to Say Goodbye examines not only the cultural difficulties of leaving home as a first-generation Latina, but the financial ones as well. "My mom had an hourly job, so there's no way she could afford to pay for my college. So it was like finding the money - it was about, like, can I go to college? When it's something no one in your immediate family has ever done."
|Berta with NPF 2006 Director, Patrick Torres.
Berta's powerful expression of her personal journey struck a chord with her classmates and Teaching Artist, and in 2006 her play was chosen to be featured in our New Play Festival. "I remember being in the auditorium, and just hearing my stories, the monologues, the actual script being acted out ... it was amazing to see." Watching her own life unfold from an outsider's perspective also helped her realize that "there [is] always a solution ... one way or another people will go to college, you just have to find the way."
And find the way she did. In 2007, Berta enrolled for her freshman year at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. After only one semester away, she got the opportunity to return to the DMV, and began studying at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. There, she earned her Bachelor's degree in Business with a focus in Management, and followed it up with an MBA. "Anything we do in life is a business, is a transaction," she reflects. "There's an input and an output at the end of the day. So if I know how to run a business, how to do business, then I would be able to ... pretty much be anything I wanted to be."
Nowadays, Berta works at the Department of Defense and loves what she's doing. She still writes poetry, which she shares with her boyfriend, and seems to find tremendous freedom in the creative writing process. "There's no right or wrong answer in writing. It's whatever you want it to be. ...It's gonna be a really great masterpiece, even if no one sees it that way, because you were the writer. It's your piece, and everyone should be proud of that."
We are awfully proud of Berta Gonzalez, and humbled that we were able to share in even a small part of her journey. We cannot wait to tell more stories like hers! Our dream is that one day graduates like Berta will have the chance to speak directly to our current students, building relationships that will last for years to come.