Suzy Myers Jackson
Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Brooklyn
Suzy grew up in a small town in Missouri and dreamed of moving to New York City where she imagined young people had endless opportunities to participate in the arts. Part of her dream came true when she moved to New York to study drama at New York University; but her dream of abundant arts opportunities for young people was shattered when she walked into a South Bronx public high school a year after she graduated from college.
Suzy agreed to help a friend who was directing a production of Grease at Jane Addams Vocational High School in the South Bronx. Though rich in creativity and drive, the students of Jane Addams had no access to arts programming and very few extracurricular programs at all. Walking into the auditorium, she expected to coach scenes for a few hours and then go home. Instead, she met Lucy Santana. Lucy was playing one of the Pink Ladies and had recently given birth to a daughter. What was expected to be two hours of acting coaching turned into two hours of holding Lucy’s baby, so Lucy could learn her harmonies.
In an instant, it became abundantly clear that this production at Jane Addams was about SO MUCH MORE than theater. It was about community, confidence, and joy. It was about leveling the playing field and giving brilliant, talented, motivated young people the same leadership opportunities as their peers just a mile away in more privileged school districts.
A subway ride later, Suzy knew that her life had taken a turn. Shortly after, a friend forwarded her Opening Act’s job posting for Assistant Teaching Artists, and her next journey began.
Suzy joined Opening Act in 2003 when it was still a passion project of its Founder, operating with no paid staff and barely a budget. She quickly fell in love with the students and mission and, in 2004, stepped up as Opening Act’s first-ever paid staff member. Suzy accepted her current role as Executive Director in 2008 and is proud to have worked with the Opening Act team to grow the organization’s budget from $25,000 to $2 million and to increase its partnering schools from 3 to 56 high schools.
Suzy continues to work as a teaching artist in Opening Act’s program at Cobble Hill High School, where she is inspired, empowered, humbled, and taught by her students on a weekly basis.
Suzy has served as a consultant for such organizations as HBO, the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, and the Resilience Advocacy Project, teaching the power of personal narrative, fundraising, and board development. She currently serves on the Board of The Catalog for Giving and is raising her two young boys in Brooklyn with her husband, a public school teacher.