Photography by Rett Peek | Flowers from Tipton & Hurst
Thea Foundation supports the arts in education and helps students pursue higher education — from visual and performing arts to fashion design, creative writing and film — through its scholarship program. Nearly 30 colleges partner with Thea Foundation, generously matching or exceeding the foundation’s scholarships. Since its inception in 2002, the Thea Scholarship Program has awarded more than $2.5 million to more than 300 Arkansas students.
Linda and Paul Leopoulos established Thea Foundation after the untimely death of their daughter, Thea Kay. The family realized that her academic performance improved as a result of her interest in and pursuit of the arts, and this revelation is the heart of Thea Foundation’s work – providing students and teachers across Arkansas more accessibility to art education.
The foundation will host its 4th annual Into the Blue this month as a celebration of the organization’s mission fulfillment work and the success of its scholarship recipients. The evening will also honor Dorothy Morris with the Pillar of Arts Award for her extraordinary efforts to advance the arts in Arkansas.
Entertainment includes performances by Thea Foundation scholars who showcase their talents. Selena Gordon, a sophomore Theatre Arts major at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is honored to be part of the festivities. At just 19 years old, Selena has already made her debut on national television – making it to the quarter-finals of Season 8 of America’s Got Talent – and has been cast in a major motion picture, God’s Not Dead: a Light in Darkness (2018).
Selena shares her insights and how Thea Foundation helped her pursue her dreams.
Who is one of your musical inspirations?
“Christina Aguilera – I used to try to hit all the notes that she could. I set a goal for myself that if I wanted to sound like anybody, Christina Aguilera was a good choice.”
What did you enjoy most about America’s Got Talent?
“All the people and performers that I met. I met dancers, all kinds of singers and people with the most random talents; it was very interesting to be in an environment where you have all these different people with all these different talents trying to make their dreams happen. It gave me a lot of confidence. Making it to the quarter-finals, I realized, ‘you can do this, you have the ability to do this.’”
What was it like working on your first film?
“I talked to the actors about performing in general, which was definitely one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Whitney Houston’s mother Cissy Houston was there as a musical guest, so I had the opportunity to speak with her too. And when you’re in an environment where all of these people have come together to make this movie and get across a message they feel strongly about, you can feel it in the air.”
How has Thea Foundation impacted your life?
“Because of the scholarships, I was able to devote myself to the arts. And what I always tell people is, it’s not just a scholarship, it’s not just a foundation. To me, Thea Foundation is family. Once you are in, they don’t lose contact with you — they always let you know if you need anything, you can reach out to them.”
How has Thea shaped your career goals?
“I realize I want to be involved in all aspects of performing – not just singing, acting or modeling. I want to chase after a career and a life where I can blend all three and be happy doing it.”