Interview with Allyson Trunzer

“Barbuda is an extremely special place. It is home. As more issues happen around the world, I notice its innocence even more. The people, the culture, the environment. It is a community that I am proud to be a part of and want to help expand.”

Allyson Trunzer

When we first saw Allyson Trunzer’s latest dance VIDEO we knew that we wanted to have her share more of her story, her passion for dance, her love of Barbuda and how she came to receive a scholarship to a US college from the Coco Point Fund!

Allyson is a vibrant, determined woman who always had clarity on where she wanted both her dance career and educational horizons to reach. She has successfully trained as a dancer in New York, Toronto and Antiqua/ Barbuda and is currently enrolled in Shenandoah University working on a Bachelor of Arts in Dance program, as well as looking to add the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program to her studies. Allyson is also involved in the [Not Just] Women’s Center at the University focused on sexual health and assault help. She has performed in the Vagina Monologues, the Lucinda Childs’ Concerto and has choreographed a piece for ShenCoLab titled Mobility (movement, small orchestra, film, audience participation) about a friend’s transition to a wheelchair. Allyson is the recipient of the Black Excellence New Student Award, the Global Citizen Project Recipient and the The Gabriella Miller Award for 2019 giving to an outstanding First Year Seminar Student.

We caught up with her while in home from school in Barbuda during COVID-19 to hear her wonderful story that led her to audition for the dance program at Shenandoah University only one month after discussing the offer from some of our very special board members to sponsor her education there. Enjoy the interview!

Tell us about yourself!

I was born in Toronto, Canada, and grew up in Barbuda for part of my childhood. Growing up, I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and a dance choreographer. Upon graduating from an arts high school, I completed a dance certification at Ballet Creole’s Professional Training Program, studied in New York, and started dancing with Afro-contemporary/theatre companies in Toronto, and teaching classes in Toronto, and Antigua/ Barbuda. In recent years, I’ve been wanting to expand my horizons, and the opportunity to study at Shenandoah University came at the perfect time.

How did you first encounter the Coco Point Fund? Is there a story about meeting them?

I have known of the Coco Point Fund for many years as some of my family members have attended university abroad, because of their sponsorship. I met a few of the members, James R. Wilkins Jr, Veronica Wilkins, Michael Smith, Werner Minshall, Joan Minshall, Mollie Schmitz and Joseph Schmitz, in February 2019 during their stay in Barbuda. While assisting the group, Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins offered their sponsorship to attend Shenandoah University in the fall. Within a month, I visited them in Winchester, Virginia, completed an audition for the Bachelor of Arts in Dance program, and enrolled for the Fall 2019 semester.

Allyson pictured at Shenandoah University with Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins.

Did you always feel you wanted to go to school abroad and off of Barbuda? How did Shenandoah University come about?

I’ve always wanted to attend school, however it was something I’d put off for a few years. I wanted to have a dance career first, get the professional experience, then return to school and study something new. That was very important to me. When Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins offered for me to go to school, it was the right time, as I was ready for the next transition.

What is your major?

I am currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Dance program, and looking to add the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program to my studies.

What was it like when you first got to school there? How was it to adjust?

I didn’t find a huge problem with adjusting to life at Shenandoah University. I’ve lived in Toronto for a long time, and there were a few similarities. Everyone at the school was very friendly. It was difficult being away from my family, and friends, but I also believe it was a short-term sacrifice for a long term benefit.

You were recently in a video produced by Mark Valino, who has created the Moments of Movement project. What is that project about?

Yes! Mark Valino is a filmmaker from Toronto who features creatives of music and movement, and uses film as a catalyst to tell stories. There are no cuts. The movement is all improvised meaning it is made up on the spot, and Mark is there, by your side. He explained it to be like a dance, between the mover and the camera. Watch the video here

We heard that you were named “outstanding Freshman” in a class of over 500 students at Shenandoah University. Congratulations! What did that honor feel like?

I am extremely honored to have been one of two recipients of The Gabriella Miller First-Year Student Award 2019.

The Gabriella Miller Award is awarded to a First Year Seminar student who is recognized for their love of learning, and contribution to classes. The award was named after a young girl who passed away due to cancer, but wished to attend university before her passing. She came to Shenandoah University, attended classes, and received an honorary degree for her accomplishment. Since then, her mother has funded this award in honor of her daughter.

I continue to be moved, motivated, and inspired by Gabriella Miller’s story.

How are you coping with this crisis in Barbuda?

School has been keeping me very busy. Barbuda is naturally quiet, however it has brought about a different energy. I’m just happy to be with my family at this time.

What does Barbuda mean to you?

Barbuda is an extremely special place. It is home. As more issues happen around the world, I notice its innocence even more. The people, the culture, the environment. It is a community that I am proud to be a part of and want to help expand.

Where do you see yourself fulfilling your career after school?

I will definitely be moving back to Barbuda in the future!

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