Josiah Rogers ’12 was always a “ball of energy”. Through Up With People he has found a way to channel it…and doing so has been life-changing.
“There’s not a group like this in the world…where you can travel the world, get an education, perform, and just dive right into different cultures,” he said. “It brings the world together.”
Up With People (UWP), a service and performing organization that accepts 100 students from around the world each year, is bringing its cast to our area. Josiah will be a featured soloist as the international company performs at Chagrin Falls High School’s Performing Arts Center on March 14th and 15th at 7pm. Proceeds from the shows benefit both the Orange Schools Foundation and the Chagrin Falls Educational Foundation/PTA which are sponsors of this year’s shows.
Josiah has been touring with the cast for the past eight months, visiting such locales as Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota domestically while experiencing international life in Mexico, Sweden, Denmark…and the Vatican where he performed for the Pope.
“Performing for the Pope on the steps of the Vatican was just an amazing experience to have,” said Josiah. “But I also loved performing in Mexico because it’s just a totally different culture…and the people are just very, very nice. The places are all incredible. Just knowing that I have friends all over the world now, a big network of family, is my favorite part.”
Still, Josiah is happy that “home” is on the tour route.
“It’s great to be a local in the show!” he said. “Everyone should come see it! Anyone from age one to 100 will have something to take away from the show!”
A star football player at Orange who was also a diver and lacrosse player in his years at Orange always had a love of performing and was one of the leads in the 2012 OHS production Hairspray. He was excited to watch some of his colleagues rehearse this year’s show In The Heights and credits director Elaine Sonnie along with teachers Adam Bechlem and Mark Burkhart for setting him on the path to success.
“Coach Bechlem was always there for me. He always gave me that positive mindset and taught me how to hone my energy which has helped me so much in this experience. Mr. Burkhart is an awesome teacher and good guy who was always there to talk to me whenever I needed it. And a shout-out to Mrs. Sonnie! Love that lady!”
Rogers said he first heard about Up With People when the group last performed at the Orange Schools in 2011.
“I wasn’t doing so well – my grandmother died the year before. Seeing the show gave me hope and made me think I could do something better with my life, so immediately after the show I applied,” he said.
But he deferred his acceptance for a while as college, work, and life took over. It was a year later that former PTA President Stephanie Jarrett stepped in and reminded him of his passion for performing. Her husband Chuck, a former UWP performer, has been involved with the group for many years and is now the Chairman of the Board.
“I decided to give it a shot,” Josiah said. “Now I’m here and love what I’m doing.”
Josiah is not alone in that love. Three other 2012 Chagrin Valley graduates have joined the UWP cast and have had leading roles in the performances. Those graduates include Clyde Foxhall (OHS ’12) who is now attending Tri-C but travelled the world in the first semester of 2012-2013; and Elisha Campbell, who attended Orange Schools through eighth grade and is now studying musical theater at Cleveland State.
“It’s a great experience for the kids who participate and a terrific organization that brings a really good message and does important work in our community in a fun and energetic way!” effused Stef Jarrett. “Their shows are high energy, full of song and dance and are perfect for kids of all ages!”
Some of the service projects the troop participates in to spread their messages of global understanding include workshops in the schools, anti-bullying and diversity programming and, assisting with service projects at Beech Brook and throughout the area. The group leaves for Mexico after their visit here, then on to Europe, with the tour ending in Israel.
“We promote world peace through community service and music wherever we go,” Josiah said.
And after the tour ends?
“I want to try out for the Voice or American Idol. If that falls through, then I am going back to school to study musical theater or performing arts.”
But don’t expect it to fall through. With Josiah’s talent, positive energy, and determined philosophy, he is sure to succeed. All he needs to do is to follow his own advice:
“Follow your dreams. Follow your heart. You don’t have to stick to the standard. Do what you want and can today; don’t wait for tomorrow. Just keep calm and carry on. If you want it bad enough, it will come true.”
Editor’s note: The Up With People performances featuring OHS Alum Josiah Rogers '12 is this Friday and Saturday night (March 14-15) at 7pm at the Chagrin Falls High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $15 each at the Pepper Pike Learning Center or on-line at http://www.upwithpeople.org/ChagrinFalls.