Former Kids in College theatre student tutors the next generation of actors

Penn State New Kensington’s theatre camp director Joe Truesdell had more than just the usual adult volunteers assisting with the annual Kids in College stage production. Truesdell had one of his former students on staff to help the next generation of fledgling thespians polish their acting skills.

Katie Rendos, a sophomore theatre major at California University of Pennsylvania, served as acting coach for grade-school children who rehearsed for two weeks in June prior to the curtain rising on July 1 for “Shrek: The Musical.” Rendos brought 10 years of experience – on stage and behind the scenes -- to the role.

“I performed in the camp for at least eight years,” said Rendos, a native of Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania. “This is my second year as a counselor.”

Rendos' love of theatre and a desire to “pay back” the help she received as a young student was the impetus for her community service. In addition, she had much to offer after a year of college theatre classes under her belt.

“The counselors helped out a lot when I was a camper, so I am trying to help out like they did,” said Rendos, who appeared in such plays as "Aladdin" and "Beauty and the Beast." “The experience as a whole was very enjoyable.”

Truesdell, who directed Rendos during her Kids in College theatre days, welcomed the opportunity for his current class to share the experiences of a former student.

“Katie really enjoys theatre and has a sincere appreciation for having fun on stage,” said Truesdell, an English teacher at North Allegheny High School. “She has been a good role model by consistently helping the kids throughout the duration of the camp. I really enjoyed having her around during camp, she was a real help.”

For 26 years, the Kids in College summer program has offered a variety of academic and sports activities for students in grades one through 12. Each year, more than 400 youths participate in the hands-on camps.

“The camp was established to provide students with a fun learning experience, while exposing them to a college campus atmosphere,” said Debbie Novak, coordinator of Kids in College program. “Over the past 26 years, we have had more than 8,000 students participate in the program.”

For more information on Kids in College, call 724-334-6010 or visit

(Eric Bennardo, a senior communications major and intern in the Alumni and Public Relations office, is the author of the story.)

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Last Updated July 17, 2014