A blessing in disguise

Theater company puts a new twist on Secret Santa


Graphic by Victoria Van

Story by Kate Morgan, staff writer

The bright lights of theater’s backstage hallway blind her as she pushes her way through the two sets of glass doors. She enters the first classroom on the right to see all of her classmates laughing with glee on the tattered plaid couch. A small purple gift bag filled with white tissue paper awaits her arrival. With haste and excitement, she throws away the tissue paper covering all of her favorite things. She laughs with joy and looks at the small note attached to the bag that says, “From: Your Secret Encourager.”

The Secret Encouragers system is a program implemented in both the Advanced Theater Performance class and UIL classes used to bond the casts, improve their onstage performances and encourage the students to think about others.

“It can be a note to just cheer them up,” sophomore Lia Graham said. “School can be really hard, and knowing that someone thinks about you when they don’t have to is really uplifting.”

At the beginning of the year, everyone who is willing to participate fills out a form answering questions about themselves, and then everyone randomly and anonymously draws someone else’s paper. From that point on, people will receive anonymous gifts from their “Secret Encourager.” At the end of the year, the students who chose to participate will discover who their secret encourager is by buying a gift for the person they believe has been “encouraging” them throughout the course of the year.

Although people’s identities are hidden, students are able to use this program to grow closer together and encourage their castmates.

“I brought the Secret Encourager program into Advanced Theatre Performance and UIL because we have to spend so much time together. It’s a way for everybody to feel encouraged throughout the year,” Director Melissa Newton said. “It affects their onstage performance because it helps to form a tighter cast. They come together more as a group.”

Although this program is fairly new to the audition-based theatre classes, members of the theater company have noticed the impact that the Secret Encourager program has had on the participating students.

“People get little notes and gifts from their encouragers all year. The students talk about how much it meant to them to have somebody who noticed when they were having a bad day,” Newton said. “I have noticed that students are not just focusing themselves. They are focusing on others.”

Every six weeks Secret Encouragers go out and use the forms filled out at the beginning of the year to find a gift or to write a note that they are sure their person will love. The gifts sizes vary with the time of year. They are usually slightly larger gift on birthdays and at Christmas time. However, the encourager has the freedom to get whatever gift they believe their chosen person will enjoy.

I have noticed that students are not just focusing themselves. They are focusing on others.”

— Lisa Newton

“Last year in UIL, there was somebody who was having a bad week. Her secret encourager went out and got her a little box of chocolates. She really liked them, but I don’t think it was the chocolate,” Newton said. “I think it meant a lot to her that somebody noticed that she was having a bad week and sent her something to say, ‘Hang in there.’”

This program has also affected the outlook of many of the students who have been able to be a Secret Encourager for one of their castmates.

“I felt really good about myself. I was doing something for others. It was pretty cool,” sophomore Perla Hernandez said. “I didn’t get to see my person receive their gift, but I got to see their face after they got the gift and their face was priceless. It made me really happy.”

The students who participate in this program are given the opportunity to grow closer to their castmates through a system that is designed to get them to think about the people around them.

“You’re secretly becoming friends with them,” Hernandez said. “It’s like you’re their fairy godmother.”