Local teen actor is one of four African-American Chamber award recipients
By Gheni Platenburg, Victoria Advocate
Dressed in a professional, yet stylish purple and black outfit, Raymond Yancey, 16, rushed into class and got fitted with a microphone just moments before he was scheduled to recite an original oration on civil rights to an audience of his third-period peers Wednesday afternoon.
“Testing one, two, three,” Raymond said as he did a quick microphone check and switched mental gears from the interview he’d given the local television station less than 15 minutes before.
A true professional, Raymond delivered a well-executed performance, once again effortlessly balancing the life of a busy actor with being a student.
His balancing efforts have not gone unnoticed.
On Nov. 4, Raymond, along with three other Victorians, will be honored at the 2010 African-American Chamber of Commerce of Victoria’s Chairman’s Awards Banquet.
“I was shocked because I’m just an average teenager who is just living life one day at a time, trying to get it right,” said Raymond, who will receive the youth award. “Just being honored for doing the right thing is heartwarming.”
The chamber has honored residents who exhibit a high level of community involvement for the past four years, but this is the first year a youth award will be distributed.
“We want people, young and old alike, to understand that giving and participating is important,” said chamber treasurer Ron Peace.
Board members said the decision to name Raymond as the youth award recipient was an easy one, citing the way he carries himself, as well as his work with the theater and Top Teens of America as winning attributes.
“Anytime you see Raymond, he’s representing himself well. He’s a role model to other kids,” said Matthew Gaskin, chamber president. “He’s not just hanging out. He’s doing something with his life.”
All the candidates were nominated and selected by the chamber’s board of directors.
“We chose people based upon the quality of the service that they provided to the Victoria community,” said Peace. “It’s important that organizations, whether nonprofit or for profit, recognize the people who work hard in the community.”
“I’m proud of him,” said Jodi Yancey, Raymond’s mother. “I’m glad he’s setting a standard for other youth to follow.”
Since the age of 5, when Raymond played a teddy bear in a church play, he has worked to entertain the people of Victoria with his acting prowess.
Over the years, Raymond, a junior at Victoria East High School, has acted in 20 plays and several television commercials, including nationally aired commercials for AT&T and CarMax. Most recently, Raymond played the role of Schroeder, Charlie Brown’s friend and piano virtuoso in the Theatre Victoria Peanuts Gang musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Although he has started to get some local recognition, Raymond said his family helps to keep him grounded.
“If I did try to get the big head, they would bring me right back down,” he said. “They taught me you can’t achieve anything all by yourself.”
With the help of his mother, who Raymond credited for keeping his schedule organized, Raymond successfully balances being co-president of the Victoria East Drama club and a member of the school’s Speech & Debate team with volunteering at local shelters and nursing homes and acting with Theatre Victoria, all the while maintaining A’s and B’s on his schoolwork.
“It becomes stressful at times, but when you think of the outcome, it’s not about me at all,” said Raymond, as he described how he manages to balance his packed schedule. “My upbringing has made me care more about helping others before I help myself.”
Raymond said a supportive family and hardships, such as poverty and never knowing his biological father, have also motivated him to succeed.
“So many people have grown accustomed to life not being fair, but when you think about it, the world’s been changed by people who refused to accept life’s unfairness,” he said.
Raymond, who lives by the motto, “Live every day like it’s your last,” said his future goals include putting the final touches on his self-created play, majoring in theater at the University of Texas, acting on Broadway and eventually owning his own theatrical company, which he plans to name Kaleidoscope Theatrics.
“He can do anything he wants to do. If he wants to be a professional actor, there’s no doubt in my mind that he can do it,” said Rock Westfahl, Raymond’s speech and debate teacher. “He’s been a great kid.”
In the meantime, Raymond said he just hopes his award will serve as an inspiration to his peers.
“I hope it will inspire them that if they keep trying and keep persevering, then you will be recognized whether it’s with an award, someone saying thank you or by just making someone’s day a little better.”