Lydia Kinne, National HYPE Advisor, recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jensen Kirkendall, former CYT Santa Cruz student and originator of the now-popular phrase, “Awkwardly Closer than Family,” about his past experience with the CYT EXPO. Jensen has attended four EXPOs in all three capacities – as a HYPE student, an Improv student, and as a “general” student, and today he’ll be sharing with us some of the highlights of those experiences – especially as it relates to HYPE.
Q: What is the best part of EXPO for you?
Jensen: My favorite part is being able to see how similar all the different CYTs are and being able to interact with everyone. There are always a few people that I really connect with in a very short time, and that would not happen at a typical conference. You take a regular conference with old people, and you throw in some teenagers; some acting, singing, and dancing; and some Jesus: that’s what EXPO is. There’s nothing like it.
Q: Why should a HYPE student come to the HYPE workshops at EXPO?
Jensen: HYPE students are a special part of CYT that I believe add an essential element. I have always said that it emphasizes the Christian in CYT. Building leadership qualities in high school Christian actors is a remarkable opportunity for making a difference in the world of the arts. EXPO gives a fantastic opportunity to gather like-minded people in order to compare methods, assess universal priorities, and better understand the leadership roles. It is both helpful for new HYPEs–giving definite direction and understanding of the mission– and for longstanding HYPEs–providing and receiving encouragement and guidance.
Q: What were some of your favorite moments from the 2015 EXPO?
Jensen: I technically wasn’t a part of a CYT Affiliate in 2015, so I was a little bit out of place in HYPE. However, despite this I greatly enjoyed my time and always felt welcomed by all. One of my favorite memories from the most recent EXPO was renting out a 4 person pedal cart and almost crashing it into a wall repeatedly. However, in the past EXPOs when I was a part of a CYT, my favorite memories have been the trust exercises and problem-solving activities that we have to do with people we just met and simply spending time with other groups informally and sharing laughs and life.
Q: What are some ways that students can grow in leadership at EXPO?
Jensen: CYTers are two-fold leaders. We see in our culture how heavily media and acting influences people. This, in itself, is a form of leadership. This defines leadership as having influence over someone’s thinking and potentially their behavior through telling a story about life. Then, add to this the Christian faith. Jesus shows leadership in the form of servanthood. We as Christians lead through serving. So, what does this have to do with EXPO? EXPO is a grand-scale integration of acting and faith that takes place in each CYT. It is about combining the art of portraying the human spirit (which is made in the image of God) with the practice of serving with the Holy Spirit. EXPO is a blown-up image of how this integration can take place in each CYT. This may not be what most people take from it, but as a HYPE student, it is there if one simply looks and listens.
Q: If a student was undecided about coming to EXPO, how would you convince him/her to come?
Jensen: If you are undecided about coming to EXPO, then I would ask you if you love CYT. If you answer yes, then you should definitely try and get to EXPO. EXPO captures and magnifies the soul of CYT. Simply observing all the kids and adults interacting shows this, oftentimes more than the actual activities (however these are essential and fun). If you love CYT, you will love EXPO.
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