By Shannon McKechnie
The students I met at CREST were forthcoming about the transitions they felt they went through during the program. They described being scared or nervous to participate and speak with each other or the program interns when they first arrived in Calicut, but by the end of the five month residential program, they were confident, articulate and excited about their futures. Self-confidence was the main takeaway for many students I spoke with, as it allowed them to feel comfortable with declaring goals they may have previously felt were unattainable. CREST acts to provide crucial nonacademic skills that are in demand in the professional marketplace, so the students can overcome the disadvantage and oppression steeped within the educational and employment systems in India. Within the context of CREST, these students exhibited the professional and social skills that complemented their academic qualifications, but I wondered what would happen when the program ended and the students no longer had the consistent circle of support from their CREST classmates.
During the week long theatre workshop that concluded the program, I explored how the CREST students used theatre and acting to discuss and share their experiences of oppression. I found that the students were far more comfortable discussing their experiences in the context of performance, where their support group surrounded them, and when they could ‘leave it on the stage’ and return to their new, postCREST ‘employable’ identity. The CREST students were excited about their new identities, confidence and goals that had been developed at CREST amongst their supportive cohort. CREST curriculum facilitated the development of these new identity performances within the context of the group, creating an effective support system for students to access as they pursue employment, even if they are physically apart.
Read the full paper by Shannon McKechnie here: Crestians Identity performance in a post-graduate skills training program in India