Nicole Pedro has been hearing stories about Up With People her whole life.
Her parents, Jay Pedro and Mia Pauwels, toured with the performance group in the 1990s.
“They’re always talking about the good times they had,” the 18-year-old said. “I think my parents have been dropping broad hints for me to apply for years.”
For a long time she wasn’t convinced it was for her.
Then she and her father went to a reunion in Bermuda four years ago.
“They had the children of alumni get together and perform a song,” she said. “It was really fun. I started thinking about applying to Up With People then.”
She was further convinced when her mother hosted visiting Up With People performers two years later.
“Four performers stayed with us for two days,” Ms Pedro said. “They seemed happy just to sleep on our couch. They told me about the great time they’d been having. It was interesting hearing about it from people my own age.”
Inspired, she applied to the programme last summer. When she was accepted, her parents were ecstatic, although she deferred acceptance until January so she could make some money.
Admission to Up With People comes with a cost of $17,460 per semester; students get college credit for participating.
Ms Pedro, who graduated from Warwick Academy in May, got a job at Makin Waves to help pay; she’s also hosting a dinner at Daylesford Theatre next week. Her mother is making lasagne, she’s making brownies.
“I’ve always liked to bake,” she said. “I like to make sweets that I like to eat.”
Although she loves to dance, the teenager isn’t so great at singing.
She’ll spend her first three weeks with Up With People training at their Denver, Colorado headquarters. Then, she’ll hit the touring circuit.
“We’ll tour the United States quite a bit,” she said. “But we’re guaranteed two continents. They’ll probably put me in the back somewhere. Up With People accepts you on your character, not your ability to perform. If you can’t perform, they put you to work behind the scenes. Along the way we do 150 hours of community service. The group that stayed with us went into the prisons here and also did volunteer work with Keep Bermuda Beautiful.”
She’s most excited about meeting new people.
“I’m really doing it to get to know people from different cultures,” she said.
“While we’re touring, we get to spend a free day with the host families we stay with. That should be fun.”
After Up With People she heads to the University of the West of England in Bristol to study forensic science.
“I know that’s very different from performance,” she laughed. “For a while I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Then I went on a school trip to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology last year.
“We did computer science and forensic science. We were taking fingerprints and that sort of thing. I think I’d like to work in a lab rather than working at a crime scene like you see on television.”
Although nervous about being on her own for the first time, she’s excited too.
“It’s going to be great,” she said.
Her father joined Up With People in 1992. Her mother signed up in 1990 after seeing a show near her home in Sleidinge, Belgium. People then spent a year touring with the group.
Ms Pauwels said, “I was 19, and my parents thought I was in school,” she said. “A group of friends and I took a bus to the next town to see a performance.”
She loved it so much she applied directly after seeing the show.
“I only spoke the most basic English at that time,” she said. “Luckily, there was someone there who spoke Dutch.”
Her parents were a little baffled when she went home and told them what she was doing, but gave their consent.
“After I did that, I worked for them for a few years,” Ms Pauwels said. “I travelled to their tour stops ahead of time to set things up, such as host families. That was one of the best years of my life.”
• Join Nicole Pedro at Daylesford Theatre next Saturday, from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. Meals cost $25; $15 for children under 12. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org