MU
Oak Leaves

March 1, 2019

david alvarez group

David Alvarez pictured with students he works with on a daily basis at Unity Performing Arts Foundation. 


Senior Teaches Leadership in Local Community


Noah Tong

 

For David Alvarez, a senior communication studies major at Manchester University, Unity Performing Arts Foundation was central to his childhood development. Now he hopes to instill the same skills and values he learned from a young age as Student Development Coordinator for Unity. “I am responsible for teaching leadership and communications skills as well as preparing students for on and off stage,” Alvarez said. “I also work on the relationships internally and externally in the organization, and work on the overall growth of the organization.”

Unity Performing Arts, located in Fort Wayne, Ind., describe themselves as an “innovative, after-school concept” that looks to develop and empower young people from the ages of seven to 19. They boast specialized programming for students in education, choral music, dance, drama and creative writing. Alvarez credits Unity for the life-changing preparation and relevant experience it provided him.

“Starting at the age of 12, I led the choir in little things such as songs, setup, assisting, all the way to running events and rehearsals on my own,” Alvarez said. “I have also been exposed to national and international travels, and even performed with artists such as Roberta Flack, Keisha Cole and Kirk Franklin.

“I actually joined at the age of seven, and I attended Unity events consistently past graduation,” Alvarez continued. “Being an alum, in 2016, I presented Marshall White [Founder & CEO] with a job I’d like, and he gave me the title.”

Currently enrolled with Unity are 61 students representing over 17 zip codes. There is a $60 annual fee, although Alvarez contends: “That is nothing when you take in the fundraising for travels, and account for the cost of our performances being around $43,000.”

As his commute is about 50 minutes from campus, Alvarez admits the schedule can be “hectic” at times. “I am a board member of two clubs on campus, and I’m president of one of them,” he said. “On top of that, I work anywhere from 20 to 30 hours a week for Unity.

During the week it is anywhere from one to three hours, but on weekends I commit from the beginning to the end of the day. That is roughly around 15 hours.” With over 11 events in March alone, the hours Alvarez gives are a significant contribution to the success of Unity programs and performances. He is quick to note, however, that more help is always appreciated.

“We could always use volunteers!” Alvarez said. “We have weekend rehearsals where we could have help with setup, supervising students, or other fun activities we have for the students.” Alvarez still has much he wants to accomplish.

“Once I graduate, I will be taking a higher position at Unity, working with youth to develop them into leaders and professionals,” he said. “I will also be working on the growth of Unity Performing Arts Foundation.”

After being a student who takes part in Unity events, Alvarez is now able to experience the benefits of being an educator. His passion of improving the lives of young people rewards him above all else. “Almost daily I get texts or calls from my students sharing accomplishments, sharing wisdom, or even just seeking help on becoming people,” Alvarez said.

“I have seen little things where students improved vocally, or gained confidence, all the way to students’ lives completely changing, “Not everyone comes from a great home, and Unity gives them a family to fall back on,” he continued. “Today’s society pressures kids to sex, alcohol, drugs, and even just bad behavior. Unity is a positive environment that allows for the opposite to be encouraged.”

Alvarez’s time at Unity has even taken him around the world to places such as Riga, Latvia, where the Foundation competed at the World Choir Olympics. An incredible opportunity to compete overseas, Alvarez was also aware of the impact he could have on an international stage.

“We were eating in a cafeteria and a giant table with thousands of trays fell over,” Alvarez said. “Over 80 choirs were in that room and no one went to help. I quickly grabbed several students and ran to go help. Slowly, one by one, other choirs joined in cleaning until they were all stacked nicely. “I felt a tug on my shirt and an elderly lady from Riga was crying,” Alvarez continued. “She thanked me and said she was sorry. I asked why she was sorry, and she said she assumed Americans were, as she put it, ‘[expletive].’ Although it doesn’t seem like much, anyone can stand up, lead and make a difference.”