CULTURE MATTERS: A worldly message; Volunteer group with local member visits, performs in Jackson Hole

By on August 20, 2013
Katy Flanagan with her host family in Mexico, singing with Hugh Sumners, and in Manila. (Courtesy Katy Flanagan)

Katy Flanagan with her host family in Mexico, singing with Hugh Sumners, and in Manila.
(Courtesy Katy Flanagan)

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – If Katy Flanagan asks you to lunch, don’t accept by saying you are starving. Her reply is not meant to be mean, but it comes automatically. “No you are not,” she will tell you.

Flanagan graduated from Jackson Hole High School last year. She postponed college, instead opting to go on tour with Up with People. She spent about a year traveling the world and staying with host families, performing community service projects and singing and dancing on stage, on her travels she saw poverty and people who were truly starving.

Flanagan returns to Jackson this week with Up with People. The troupe will be working on trail projects, volunteering at the Living Center of Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Therapeutic Riding and participating in other philanthropic efforts. They will perform Friday and Saturday nights at the Center for the Arts.

Up with People travels with 100 students from 20 different countries in an effort to foster world unity and understanding while demolishing cultural stereotypes and barriers, said Katie Walker, promotions manager with Up with People.

Money raised from performances goes to local charities.

The show is professionally produced and directed and features songs and dances from around the world that highlight different cultures. There are traditional songs from Africa, Japan and a country western line dancing number. There also is a song about bullying.

“It’s great entertainment, but everything comes with a message, too,” Flanagan said.

During the tour Flanagan broke her cheekbone on a trampoline so she watched the show from the audience while in Switzerland for the first time.

“The last number of the show is probably one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Flanagan cried during the entire number, which features lyrics about the world coming together and a parade of flags.

“There’s something so powerful about seeing 100 young people from all over the world that want to make a difference and make the world a better place,” Flanagan said.

The show is a reminder that no matter how wonderful Jackson is, it’s important to think about the rest of the world, she said.

Flanagan is now the promotions representative intern, but she hopes she gets a chance to take the stage for the show since it is in her hometown and a place she’s been bragging about for the last few months.

Jackson is a stronghold of alumni, Walker said. As Flanagan is coming off tour, Sarah Rodeck of Jackson is joining the group.

Flanagan grew up in Jackson loving theater and performing with Off Square Theatre Company and studying Spanish in high school.

An alumni from Up with People came to Flanagan’s Spanish class to talk about the program and she was fluent in Spanish, Flanagan said.

Flanagan wasn’t ready to go to college and the idea of traveling the world was intriguing. In addition to learning about other cultures, she found what she thinks will be her career passion.

While in Mexico and the Philippines she taught in elementary schools. She plans to attend the University of Denver to study elementary education and Spanish. She’ll continue to travel.

“I could go anywhere in the world and have a place to live now,” she said.

About Kelsey Dayton

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