A Defining Moment: Welcome to the PATAsphere

February 27, 2018

Tia Spagnuolo, 24, was born and raised in Wyoming, PA. She received her Master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Misericordia University in 2016 and currently works as a voice therapist in a private practice. She also helps to run PATAsphere, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing children a safe, supportive environment to receive state-of-the-art training in the performing arts.

I was beginning my third year of college. I was in love. I was “doing things my way” and I thought I had everything figured out. (For those of you who have been 20 years old before, you know that 20-year-olds who claim to have everything figured out generally have absolutely nothing figured out!) Things were rapidly changing, and I realized that I didn’t have any of the answers that I once thought I had. People around me were having defining experiences, moments that were pulling them toward their soon-to-be chosen paths, but all I felt was remarkably lost.

In the midst of my existential crisis, my mentor-turned-best-friend Cari Tellis, a professor in the Speech-Language Pathology Department at Misericordia University, called me into her office and said, “I want to start a summer performing arts camp for kids, and I really need your help.”

I promptly responded with something like, “Absolutely not. I am not a camp counselor, and I do not perform.”  It only took Cari about 30 seconds to convince me that I was going to help her. Spoiler alert: that was my moment – a moment that seemed so trivial at the time, but has shaped my heart and my mind, and has pulled me toward my path.

Thirty-six children arrived on our first day of camp in July 2014, and we quickly and unapologetically fell in love with each and every one of them. At the end of the day, we knew that this was just the beginning of something that was going to be so much bigger than us.

Without further adieu, allow me to welcome you to the PATAsphere, a non-profit organization that is built on love, kindness, and community.

PATAsphere has made it its mission to provide all children with a safe, accepting, supportive, and engaging learning environment, and additionally trains them in the performing arts. We teach children ages 7 to 18 years old how to apply biomechanical knowledge about the voice, physical movement, and emotional expression into performance. Instruction is tailored to meet the unique needs and learning styles of each individual, allowing children to be challenged while still learning at a pace that is comfortable for them.

Arguably one of the most beautiful things about PATAsphere is that all children have a home here. Beginners and elite performers, children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), autism, children who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and children from all socioeconomic backgrounds are all welcome here.

The only prerequisites to enter the PATAsphere are quite simple: be kind, be loving, be respectful, and be willing to learn. Be open to the possibility that once you enter the PATAsphere, you will have a life-changing, world-shaping, defining moment.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the gentle nudges from my friend Cari that encouraged me to open myself up to the mission that has filled my life with such purpose and love. And now, I, along with all our staff, have the distinct privilege of paying it forward and facilitating defining moments for our countless PATAsphere performers and their families. Is there anything better than that?