Theater student 'acts' on his dream

February 22, 2018

Monty Sanford experimented with cooking while growing up and became quite adept in the kitchen. Impressed by his talent, Monty’s family envisioned him making a living as a chef. What they didn’t know was that Monty harbored a deeper passion for another art and secretly hoped to pursue a career as an actor. 

Today, Monty is chasing that dream, with plans to graduate in 2019 as a theater major. But a four-year college wasn’t Monty’s first destination after graduating from the New School of Community Service, an alternative high school in Milwaukee Public Schools. His journey first took him to culinary school. But as Monty progressed and began envisioning his future in the heat of the kitchen, he realized without a doubt that he preferred the heat of the stage lights far more.

“If I don’t do what gets me out of bed every single day, I’ll feel like I’ve wasted a life,” said Monty, who caught the acting bug at age 5.

Upon leaving culinary school, Monty’s first attempt at acting came during a two-week vacation in Los Angeles. At the end of his trip, he decided to stay there to pursue his dream. The day after he made that decision, his uncle, who hosted him, died and Monty found himself homeless in a distant city without any connections.

A fast-food job helped him raise just enough money to travel home. Soon after, he discovered Stritch.

“I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know when I went to L.A.,” Monty said. “That’s why I’m so thankful for Stritch. I have learned a lot.”

Monty is so confident that acting is the one true path for him that he refuses to consider a fallback career plan. His education and the connections he is making through faculty are proving invaluable.

“Getting that degree in my hand, I feel like I’ll be almost invincible.”

Monty’s résumé now includes lead and supporting roles – Jesus in “Godspell,” a dog in “Toy Camp,” and a ratcatcher in “Kindertransport,” among others – as well as other opportunities that showcase and sharpen his skills, including online video shorts, small-budget film projects, and acting out ailments for nursing students who need practice with live patients.

In addition to acting, Monty’s job as a photographer helps fund his education. But a generous financial package, including scholarships and loans, is key to helping him focus intently on getting the most out of his education.

“When I found out financial aid was an option, that alone made college an actual possibility for me,” said Monty, who will be only the second in his family to graduate college. “I thought college was this brass ring that I’d never get to. Now, to be here, doing it, is such a great feeling. It’s a blessing.”

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