Student Profile - Rebekah Gonzales

Creative learning inspires arts activism for LU dancer Rebekah Gonzales

Rebekah GonzalesDefying stereotypes is routine for Rebekah Gonzales, a Beaumont native and junior majoring in theatre and dance at LU, where in just a few semesters, she has achieved more than she imagined possible.

“I like surprising people with the unexpected,” she said.

Gonzales, a leader in her department and a mentor to younger dancers, is the first in her major to receive the university’s full-ride Mirabeau Scholarship and the first of two to be awarded the Presidential Summer Fellowship, a grant of up to ten thousand dollars for summer research.

“Some people think dancers aren’t as intelligent or qualified for higher education, and I’m proving them wrong,” she said.

Inspired by the arts from an early age, Gonzales says that creative learning has been a decisive part of her academic success.

“The way I absorb and process information is different from the standard that is used in the education system. It doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent— my school performance has proven that. I just think children need the opportunity to learn in whatever way is best suited for them and makes them most successful,” she said.

Recently, Gonzales led a service-learning project for the Reaud Honors College that started out as plans for an art festival but grew into a greater, long-term mission to change the way people think about art.

“So many parents don’t want their kids to do art, even if they’re great at it, because they don’t understand it. It’s like they’re afraid of art degrees. They just want their kids to pursue whatever pays the best,” she said.

Gonzales’s project, Art in the Park, brought families together to learn about the importance of the arts and encourage creativity in education. Locals gathered at the Roger’s Park community center in Beaumont as Gonzales taught children art journaling and gave families supplies and online resources to fuel their children’s interest in art.

“I want to inspire people to take a chance and try to be creative, but I also want to give them the resources they need to do that. That’s why I made the project into ‘my creative buzz,’ an online platform that gives parents somewhere to go for ideas to help their kids get into the arts,” she said.

The experience has steered Gonzales towards new career plans to advocate creative learning. Though she will still perform as a professional dancer, she hopes to pursue education reform by giving talks at schools, hosting camps for kids, and finding new ways to encourage creativity in the classroom.

Gonzales has found continual support for her passion from the LU community. Thanks to the newly established 2017 Presidential Summer Fellowship, she will travel in June 2017 to Montreal to research creative learning methods. Gonzales will work with Brila Youth Projects, an organization that holds summer camps to promote critical thinking, social responsibility and self-efficacy in children.

“The reason I like this organization so much is that they combine the intellectual and the creative, rather than relying on traditional methods of learning. I want to see what works and bring it back to my area,” she said.

Gonzales stays active on campus by performing in university productions, volunteering for the Reaud Honors College and representing the Department of Theatre and Dance in campus events such as Lamar's Preview Days, New Student Orientation and prospective student visits.

Outside of university productions, Gonzales performs for high profile benefactor events such as Le Grand Bal, Friends of the Arts and the President's Circle. She also teaches dance three days a week for Steps of Faith in Lumberton and works for Lamar University designing costume elements for plays and dance concerts.

Gonzales plans to stay involved at Lamar University after her graduation, and she considers returning to teach and give others the same encouragement she received here as a student. She will graduate in May 2018.