I’m Jackie Kranenburg.

They told me “No.” They told me “it can’t be done,” so I became the first.

Freshman year I had moved to a new high school and learned what it was like to crave community. I was the new kid, and I was lost. My AP English teacher, invited me to audition for a play but getting seeing my name up on the cast list wasn’t the reward. The reward was belonging. I was part of a community.

The Arts had changed my life, and so I devoted my life to the Arts to change other people’s lives.

When I was a sophomore, I heard of a Junior Leadership Board for the nonprofit The Educational Theatre Association. People told me to wait until I was a junior. But I ran and was accepted. On the board, I taught workshops at 23 conferences in 13 different states. I was selected to lobby for arts education in Washington D.C.. I was the first high schooler invited to attend. The following year, nearly 20 high school students joined me.

Freshman year of college I left my small town for Chicago. I had been accepted into a rigorous Theatre Management program with a 7% acceptance rate. An acceptance I had been told I would not get. I was told it was a mistake. But I left for Chicago, and it was one of the best decisions I made.

In college, I juggled several internships in addition to classes and work. It was during my internships were I fell in love with mission-oriented marketing. I accessibility programming at The Theatre School and Chicago Children’s Theatre. I worked in marketing and public relations at Chicago Shakespeare Theater then assisted Cathy Taylor, a theatre publicist.

While still in college I started full-time work as the Director of Marketing for Drury Lane. I was a junior at the time. I again I was told that I shouldn’t have applied for the job, that I was in way over my head, that I didn’t deserve the position. I proved them wrong.

I am a fierce advocate for the arts and community. And if I need to ignore the naysayers or become the first to follow my passions, I will do so willingly. I’m knocking on doors and making paths for myself. I’m earnestly learning as I go and yearning to help others do the same.