Jason Hawkins: Eye-opening experience at NEO Youth Center | TheUnion.com

Jason Hawkins: Eye-opening experience at NEO Youth Center


NEO plans to expand its Joerschke Drive youth center, adding 3,500 square feet of indoor space in addition to an 8,000 square foot fenced-in yard. The organization has operated locally for 10 years, including the last three years in which it’s provided youth with a place to go at its Youth Center. Visit http://www.ncneo.org/give/ for information on how to support NEO, its youth center and its expansion effort.

Editor’s note: NEO (New Events and Opportunities) recently hosted a luncheon to share plans for its expansion of its Youth Center with members of the community. Among the featured speakers was Nevada Union High School senior Jason Hawkins, who has been going to the Youth Center for about 18 months. Jason was kind enough to share his speech with The Union readers to explain why NEO is such an important program to support in the community.

When I first heard of NEO, I thought it was just a place for the stereotypical jock or valley girl. We all know the type I’m talking about. The popular kids.

Before I came to NEO, I had social anxiety and it wasn’t easy making new friends. Talking to people was a challenge and I would avoid going to social gatherings.

When I was asked to go with someone to NEO, I was hesitant to go.

What is NEO? It may mean new events and opportunities, but to me, NEO means family.

I was nervous about going to a place where I only knew one person. But I took a chance and went anyway. Walking into NEO was pretty much what I expected, everyone knew each other and I didn’t know any of them. I did what I usually did, I isolated myself, going on my phone and talking to the one person I knew.

The friend I was with decided to go play some video games. I joined him. Video games always made me feel at ease when I was stressed. Talking with some of the people in this state of mind felt easier and I had made some new friends. I had soon found myself laughing and having fun with people who I would have never spoken to otherwise.

I found myself wanting to go to NEO more, feeling excited for the day to finally end so I can hangout with all the friends I had made.

The staff there make you feel welcome and appreciated. They can be someone to talk to, if things in life aren’t going right. Someone who will listen and help you. Soon enough I had felt confident in myself and I found that talking with people I didn’t know was easier.

One day I took a risk and decided to join in on an acting workshop. I didn’t think anything of it, I actually was kind of pressured into doing it. It ended up sparking a passion in me that I didn’t even know existed.

I could feel a fire burning inside me, a desire to pursue acting as a career.

I looked forward to the days we had those workshops. In fact, we started doing more acting workshops because I liked them so much. I actually now promote the workshop and made an Instagram page for it. I now volunteer at NEO as well; I film parts of the improv class to use in promotional material and I also supervise.

After the workshop had gained popularity and established itself in the NEO community, we decided we were going to host an improv show with the class on May 5. Shortly after joining the class I had landed a spot in a short film directed by (NEO co-founder) Halli (Ellis) called “Running with Balloons.” The entire experience was amazing. I learned new techniques and learned about the process of making a film. Things like how many takes are needed for each scene and how many different camera angles that scenes are shot from. A single scene could take five or six takes, and that’s per camera angle. And depending on the scene there are multiple camera angles. The film itself was only 10 minutes but it ended up taking over 40 hours to film.

Being on set and knowing that I was performing in front of several directors I wanted to impress was nerve wracking. But becoming this character and living his life was like a journey into the eyes of someone else and is such an incredible experience. My favorite moments were when I really felt in tune with the character and I could feel what he was feeling. There were several moments where I had teared up because the emotions portrayed were heavy and powerful.

I’m so grateful that NEO gave me this unique opportunity.

What is NEO? It may mean new events and opportunities, but to me, NEO means family.

Jason Hawkins is a Nevada Union High School senior.

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