Photo by Straz Center

When she answered the phone at home, Regla Sanchez didn't know why Alice Santana, Community Programs Manager at Patel Conservatory was calling. As an English Language Learners (ELL) Parent & Community Engagement instructional teacher coach for Pasco County School District, she'd be out during the summer and didn't know that important mail was waiting for her back at her office. She had no idea that The Straz Center had nominated her for The League Educator Apple Awards that acknowledge the efforts of local educators who support programs relating to Broadway or Touring Broadway shows.

When she discovered this, she was shocked. She was simply a woman with an idea to partner with the Center to bring theatre to the unprivileged students in her Pasco County district. She didn't create the initiative to garner accolades and awards. She did it for the kids.

She remembered as a single mom, the first time she'd been able to take her daughters to see a show. They were in their 20s.

"I thought to myself this would be such a wonderful experience for children who are underprivileged to experience a live performance. That was a vision I had back almost 15 years ago."

In her role with the school district, Regla researched how performing arts positively affected children and their academics, how it contributed to success in school and opened doors for them to go to college. Armed with that information, Regla reached out the Straz Center and was connected with Suzanne and Alice.

Regla described the possibility of the children in her community going to a live production was "slim to none" as the parents were not in the position to take their children to the theatre.

"I explained how I had this passion for children and how theatre would be such a great opportunity for them to see the world from a different perspective, that they could choose other avenues for their future versus just going with what they know."

Approximately a month later, Regla had her partnership with The Straz Center. She then had to approach the supervisor at her district office about her vision. After much research and a team effort, in 2016, the official partnership was born.


When Alice announced not only had she been nominated, but she won the national award, Regla was stunned.

"She started crying, was very humbled and not expecting it all," said Alice. "We were very excited to be able to share that with her because she was very deserving."

Regla stood in front of the audience in Carol Morsani Hall prior to the Broadway touring production of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella and was presented with the Apple Award by Suzanne Livesay, Vice President of Arts Education. Suzanne explained to the patrons that Regla had created opportunities for more than 500 students to experience live theatre at The Straz Center over the last two years of partnership between the Center and her community in Pasco County School District.

"Seeing these kids dressed up in their best outfits, their excitement - ninety percent had never been to downtown Tampa - I just can't say enough about how being there and being part of that has been all worth it," said Regla. "It's all been a positive experience for everyone involved. I feel very fortunate that I was blessed to be put in this position. For me, my reward was just the kids' emotion. That had already been done and over with. I could have never done it alone. It was definitely a team effort. To be recognized was more than I ever dreamed of. I am humbled beyond words."

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From This Author Deborah Bostock-Kelley

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