Nine year old Michelle Barnes walked into Pillsbury House in 1997 and found her second home. With a quiet, confident smile familiar to anyone who has spent time at Pillsbury House Theatre, Michelle says that PHT “is the most stable thing in my life.”
As a kid, Michelle participated in the earliest Chicago Avenue Projects. In one play, she wrote about a computer virus in the form of Michael Jackson who teaches a young student how to be cool enough to get off the computer and make friends.
Thirteen years later, Michelle returned from Penn State University to Pillsbury House to join the afterschool program staff where the neighborhood kids remind her of her younger self. She especially encourages kids to take advantage of the Chicago Avenue Project because professional artist volunteers create a genuine safe place for kids to express themselves.
“I don’t let them off easy,” she says of her advice to CAP kids, “because I know for a fact that if they go for it, they’ll get a lot out of it.”
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photos of Michelle in 1997 & 2012 by Pillsbury House Theatre