Belvoir gave me tools that led me to believe I could pursue my dreams. And thanks to those tools, I created a show about a middle school girl who one day grows up to lead the country, a show that reminds us anything is possible if we work hard and believe in ourselves. After all, “We’ll lead by our merits, our work will display…”
I learned so many meaningful lessons at Belvoir, and an important one was the power of making things. Sometimes that would look like me running around the camp with a video camera, getting anyone (including Nancy) to star in my short films for a video class. Sometimes it would be hours and hours of memorizing lines during rest hours with my friends. Sometimes it would be sitting on the floor of my bunk, animatedly throwing out ideas for bunk skits, square dancing costumes, carnival themes, or Oldest Camper Shows. No matter what it was, Belvoir taught me that the joy was in the process – the creative, sometimes messy, always fulfilling process of working together to create something meaningful.
It is that joy that led me to pursue a career in the arts. And it was the community at Belvoir that led me to believe I could do it.
I went to Northwestern University and graduated with a degree in Theatre, a certificate in Creative Writing for the Media, and a module in Playwriting. Now, I live in Los Angeles and I’m a TV writer –
I created the show Diary of a Future President on Disney+. Every day making my show, I found myself utilizing the skills I learned at Belvoir. Pitching stories in a writers’ room is a lot like coming up with ideas for bunk skits.
Watching actors work their magic on set is a lot like running around camp with a video camera. Being involved in every single aspect of the show – from inception to post-production – personifies my love of the process. The joy is in not just the standing ovation on opening night, but the hours of rehearsal with the best friends and the best teachers who helped you get there.
Dear Belvoir Alumnae,
I feel like it’s general swim and I’m sitting on my top bunk writing a letter and telling my mom what shows I’m doing this summer! I was a camper at Belvoir from 2000 until Cottage 2007. I then returned as a staff member – a summer here, a couple of weeks there… basically whenever I could go home, I would.
Instagram Q&A with Ilana Pena
dairy of a future President
Created by Ilana Peña, Diary of a Future President on Disney+ follows the adolescent life of Elena Cañero-Reed, a precocious young girl who records her entire upbringing in her diary, which will serve the adult version of herself well on her first day as President of The United States.