Between mock trials, the debate team, the student newspaper and the drama club, 16-year-old student Skyler Ross keeps his plate full. But each activity, according to Ross, will help him reach his goal of becoming a politician and it seems like he's off to a great start.
In addition to recently starring in Stamford's All-School Musical of "Hairspray," Ross also won the 2010 Connecticut Debate Championship along with his partner as well as the 2011 Student Leader of the Year Award from the Student Leadership Training Program. Patch spoke with Ross about his accomplishments and how what he's learned performing in musical theater correlates with political science.
Patch: So how did you get started in musical theater?
Ross: Well, I went to sleepaway camp for many summers. And when I was seven, several of my friends and my sister, who is now a musical theater major in college, convinced me to audition for the camp's musical "Peter Pan." I was cast as a Lost Boy and I had one line, "Wendy, will you be our mother?" And then I had to give Wendy a hug. That first experience — the experience of having an audience laugh and collectively sigh [at me] — was incredible and I've never stopped since then.
Patch: What were some of your favorite roles you've played over the years?
Ross: In the ninth grade, I played Le Mou in "Beauty and the Beast" and in "Carousel" I played Mr. Snow. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, I could not be in "The Mystery of Edwin," but I served as assistant director. And then, in Stamford's All-School Musical, I played Wilbur in "Hairspray."
Patch: Do you think you'll follow in your sister's footsteps and major in musical theater?
Ross: I know I'm going to go in a different direction, but the skills I've learned are applicable anywhere. It's just like Shakespeare says, "All the world's a stage." I want to be a political science major. I'm very interested in government.
Patch: How do you plan to use what you've learned doing musical theater in politics?
Ross: I think the ability to get up in front of people, articulate your thoughts well and make them laugh is useful for a politician. You need those skills.
Patch: How did you get into writing for the student newspaper?
Ross: During my freshman year, I knew I was interested in writing for The Westword. I used to read it when my sister attended Westhill. And I had a lot of friends on the staff and they told me how fun it was. My role has grown overtime and now I've been selected to be the online editor-in-chief. I just appointed an online managing editor and together we're trying to not repeat the content that's in the print publication, but to augment it in different ways.
Patch: Where do you think journalism stands right now? Do you think newspapers will survive or will online journalism take over?
Ross: I think that, for the time being, most people will choose to remain with newspapers as long as devices like the iPad remain as expensive as they are. As they become [less expensive,] I think you'll see more commuters on the trains reading their newspapers on iPads.
Patch: You're a top-notch student plus you're involved in many extracurricular activities. How do you balance it all?
Ross: First things first, you have to make sure your schedule is set up prior to that day — just planning in advance really helps. Sometimes I don't get home until 9:30 p.m., which means I have to start my homework at that time. I don't sleep a lot, but I drink lots of coffee.
Patch: What are some of your favorite subjects in school and why?
Ross: I really enjoy biology — that's my favorite of all of the sciences. I also enjoy history, but I don't have a favorite era or anything like that.
Patch: Who would you say is most influential in your life?
Ross: I would have to say my parents. They definitely raised me well — at least I'd like to think so and they would too. [Laughs] My dad has a young personality and he's easy to get along with. I think I get a lot of my social skills from him. He always gives great advice. My mom's very intense — she's a go get 'em type of a person, so I think I get my drive from her. I admire the two of them and their success in raising my sister and I. It inspires me. They work hard, but they play hard too. They're incredible people.
Patch: So, can I assume that you won't just be hanging out by the pool this summer? What do you have planned?
Ross: At the end of the month, I will be in Washington, DC for the Ronald Regan- Close Up Youth Conference. We're going to be analyzing Regan's presidency from an unbiased perspective. Two students from each state were chosen to go. I had to write an essay to qualify and Gov. Malloy chose mine. Then I'll be going up to Massachusetts for a week for the Student Leadership Training Program. Then I'll be heading down to Georgetown for an international relations program through the Junior State of America. After, I'll come home and start filling out college applications and learning how to drive — you know, everything a teen my age does. [Laughs]