SUNY Cortland ‘15
Fowler High School ‘10
“I just want to be on TV, that’s what I want to do.”
LaRae Brooks is a college junior striving to be an actress or news anchor. She remembers spending a lot of her early childhood years watching (and singing and dancing with) Barney and Friends, wishing she could be on the show. Her father was into acting when he was younger and has helped, along with support from her mother, keep that dream alive over the years.
However, a lot has happened between the times of Barney to now. “I didn’t picture myself coming to Cortland,” said LaRae. In high school, LaRae oriented away from acting and production and started thinking she wanted to be a housewife. She wasn’t so sure about going to college, but when she graduated from Fowler in 2010, she decided to go to Onondaga Community College: “With the economy, I most likely won’t be able to [be a housewife]. I am going to have to be an independent woman.”
When her mom became sick, LaRae took a year off of school, not knowing whether she would go back or not. In doing so, she lost Say Yes funds, but eventually decided to go to Cayuga Community College in Auburn in the Fall of 2011 and received an A.A.S.
Her best friend Rashad convinced her to go to Cortland with him, but there was a roadblock. In taking the time off, she lost her access to the Say Yes tuition promise. She had already been paying out of pocket for CCC and didn’t know if she would be able to continue to do so at Cortland.
But: “Say Yes gave me an opportunity. I had to stop going to school because my mom got sick, and I lost Say Yes. I thought I was going to have to pay out of pocket for everything. But I was able to speak with Ahmed and I was able to get it back. Without it, I would still be back at home.”
LaRae went to Cortland where she has once again taken up the dream of being on TV. She has been hired as an assistant to the professor of her African Americans in Theater course. The two of them are working on getting her to Hollywood, but if that doesn’t pan out right away, she could see herself working as a Technical Director, or as a camera operator, behind the scenes in the production realm.
When she does make it to Hollywood, either acting or otherwise, LaRae will still call Syracuse home. This is where she grew up: contained within it are the opportunities that are enabling her to pursue her dreams. Say Yes to Education is the one opportunity she says has impacted her the most: “I think it’s one of the greatest things in the world.” She even turned back to Syracuse (and Say Yes) and worked with the students at Frazer elementary this past summer, helping them prepare for the new school year and to help show them how important education is to their lives.
It is because of the fact that she calls it home, and all of the life in Syracuse, that LaRae sees only a positive present and future for Syracuse. “This isn’t some place where one house is fifteen miles from the next one, there is civilization here. There are things to do. Just look at Destiny: there is bowling, movies, Wonder Works, go carts, Dave and Busters. There’s no way you can be bored in Syracuse. Even if you don’t want to go ice skating down town there’s historic events going on all the time. When the Landmark premiered the movie Express, I was there. Syracuse is on the map, if only because of SU sports. You can do anything here.”
Definitely not lacking in things to do, LaRae also says that Syracuse provides the educational opportunities that allow everyone to do what they want if they just go for it: “There are so many opportunities in Syracuse that people just don’t take advantage of. I mean, the schools are being renovated, there are teachers that care about their students, college courses are offered in high school; people are getting the education they need to do what they want. I feel like if everyone goes for what they want, they will actually get it. The opportunities in Syracuse are just lurking around the corner waiting for someone to come and pick them up.”
LaRae knows that some people don’t see Syracuse in the same light that she does, but she has a response for them too: “If you don’t want to change things, things won’t change. People just brush it off with “Oh this place sucks,” but they’re not doing anything to change it. I love Syracuse. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it besides the people who are negative about it.” LaRae is hopeful that organizations like Believe in Syracuse are able to turn the perception, the negativity she has seen, around.
Finally, LaRae was asked who would play her in a documentary movie about her life. As you might suspect, there is only one person for the job: “I think I would want to play me,” she says laughing “I think I am the only one who would be able to capture myself; my friends call me dramatic, too theatrical, every day. I am trying to lay off, but that’s me.”
Spotlight by:Jason Ashley
Intern, Say Yes to Education | Syracuse
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