The Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) Foundation announced on May 5 Dryden High School senior Erin Joy Peck is the recipient of the Janet H. Griswold Scholarship. The $750 scholarship acknowledges “women who exhibit excellence in leadership, academics, extracurricular activities, community service and potential for future success.”
Peck was recommended for the scholarship by the PEO Chapter B of Newark Valley, NY. PEO is an international organization that has assisted women in the United States and Canada in pursuing their educational goals through grants, scholarships, awards and loans since 1869.
Peck said she was surprised and floored by the news of earning the scholarship.
“My grandma is a member of PEO, and she reached out and asked if I would be interested in having them sponsor me,” Peck said. “I thought it was a great opportunity because then they’re going to basically follow me forever now, and I’ll have a group of strong women that I can go back to if I need help and if I need financial support, and they’ll always be there.”
A top ten student in her graduating class in terms of GPA, Peck will be attending Drew University in Madison, NJ in the upcoming fall semester, majoring in Theater Arts with a concentration in Stage Managing. She said she hopes to work in travel theater after college as well as start a youth school for technical theater.
“I really didn’t know about [technical theater] until high school,” she said. “When I was in seventh grade, I had a senior who really reached out and taught me so much about stage managing, and I wish I had that when I was a kid. So I want to create some sort of program for children to learn about technical theater.”
Peck has been deeply involved in theater ever since middle school when she first had the opportunity to take part in her school’s theater program.
“When I got into sixth grade, I auditioned and I was little Dope the Dwarf in Into the Woods; I was on stage three times,” she said. “My mom is head costumer at Dryden for the musical department, and so I would help with high school shows when I was in middle school.”
She eventually began to work under the tutelage of the stage manager at the time and developed a passion for the behind the scenes work soon after.
“You get to work with every part; you’re kind of the mediator as the stage manager,” she said. “You get to work with the cast; you get to work with every different director, and you get to do each little part … I just love it all. Stage managing is kind of a way to bring it all together. I like being in the back and kind of secretive, and people don’t really think of the stage manager and how much they do, and I kind of like being in the back and running it all.”
In addition to the Janet H. Griswold Scholarship, Peck was also awarded last spring the University of Rochester Xerox Award for Technology and Innovation, which is given to individuals who demonstrate “strong interest in innovation and/or information technology and a high level of achievement in this area,” according to the university’s website. (Peck did not end up accepting the award as she ultimately chose to attend Drew University.) She was also the recipient of the Cortland Repertory Theater Pavilion Award for technical theater in 2020 based on her work as stage manager for the school’s production of Seussical.
Peck’s interest in the arts persists outside of school as well. At one point, she had some photography showcased at the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, NY. She is also a member of Running to Places, a theater company located in downtown Ithaca, where she has harnessed her stage managing skills. In her three years with the company she has worked four different shows, some on-stage as an actor and some off-stage as either the assistant stage manager or the head stage manager.