When PUHS senior Chesed Chap started looking at colleges this fall, she knew that she wanted a school with a strong Theater Arts program. “I was fortunate enough to find my passion at a young age,” she said. “I’m very, very passionate about theater. I think that’s what got me into Yale.”
Chesed, who applied to twelve schools through the QuestBridge program, was notified of her early decision admission to Yale University, with a full four-year scholarship, at the beginning of December. Earlier this year, she was one of 6,885 students, out of over 18,500 applicants, to be selected as a National College Match Finalist in the QuestBridge program, which facilitates early admission applications for students who “exhibit outstanding academic achievement despite financial challenges” Finalists can apply, for free, to up to 12 of the 42 colleges that partner with the program.
Patagonia School Superintendent Kenny Hayes is excited for Chesed. “I think it’s awesome that a student of her capabilities is getting this opportunity,” he said. “It shows students that it doesn’t matter where you go to high school. If you work hard you can accomplish great things,” he said.
Chesed began her theatrical involvement at the age of seven when she took part in the Missoula Theater production of “Sleeping Beauty” at the Elgin School, where she played the part of a caterpillar. She became involved with club theater at the Patagonia Creative Arts Center, starting in elementary school, and last spring she wrote, directed, and starred in a production of “Catcher in the Rye” with the main character, played by Chesed, rewritten as a girl.
She feels she was drawn to the theater because “it’s such an accessible form of expression. There’s so many ways to alter a production,” she said, “so many ways to put your own spin on it. Even lighting choices make a production what it is. It is a melding between whoever wrote a script and whoever executes the production.”
She credits “everyone involved at the Arts Center” for helping her develop as an artist, especially Cassina Farley, Anita Clovesko-Wharton and Laura Wenzel. “I admire them a lot for keeping the arts alive for the kids,” she said. She expressed her gratitude for Matthew Lysiak, as well. “He’s always there when I have an idea and he helps me execute them,” she said. “He was a huge help with “Catcher in the Rye.” And she acknowledged Lars Marshal, whom she referred to as her “spirit guide.”
Chesed’s father, Peter Chap, moved to Patagonia when Chesed was 11, looking for a school system with small classes. He chose Patagonia because “the schools and community offered many opportunities for the children to explore and grow,” he wrote.
“Patagonia is unique in that respect because within a mile radius a child can safely walk/ride their bike to the library, hummingbird center, the park, school, art center, swim pool, town square, youth center, church, Borderlands summer programs like BECY, KPUP broadcasting, classes, etc., and at any of these places there’s other children and/or adults cultivating their minds.”
Chesed feels that living in Patagonia gave her the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities and was instrumental in her acceptance to Yale. “It takes a village – you hear that a lot, but I don’t think I would have accomplished this feat without this community.” She participated in soccer, tennis, steel band, the yearbook and student government at PUHS. She also worked as a summer intern in the Borderlands Earth Care Youth Institute (BECY).
One of the advantages of a small town, she feels, is the “capacity to know so many people in different ways.” As an example, she cited Caleb Weaver, who has been her soccer coach, her boss in the BECY program and whom she directed when he acted in her play.
Chesed would like to work in theater as an actor, then perhaps pursue directing, playwriting and possibly screenwriting. “As long as I work in any of these fields, I’ll be perfectly content,” she said. She is also considering teaching theater arts. “It’s not a Plan B. The idea of being a drama teacher really excites me.”
For now, she is focusing on experiencing all that Yale has to offer, including extra-curricular theater programs and possibly student teaching through the Yale Education Scholars program. “I wake up every morning in disbelief,” she said. And I don’t think it’ll feel real until I graduate from college.”