MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Eliza Rasheed took over the theater program at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus Upper Campus seven years ago with an ambitious goal: to teach students to stand up to issues of injustice in their community.

In doing so, she is giving them tools to make the world better.

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Rasheed’s students may be just in 4th through 8th grade, but she says there is no topic too big to tackle on stage.

“Our school is really heterogeneous. Everybody comes from different backgrounds, race, culture, gender, sexual orientation or even just political views,” she said. “So, how do we all come together and be able to work together?”

Through performance, students address tough issues like racism, homophobia and bullying. Areas the principal believes are important to spotlight.

“It has to be a safe space. We’ve got to be able to have kids come to school and not feel like they are suppressing aspects of who they are,” principal Bryan Bass said.

For Rasheed, theater was always her safe place, as the daughter of a United Nations diplomat, who as a child, moved from country to country.

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“I always did theater my whole life, because that’s the place where I felt that I belonged. That’s where I learned English, that’s where I made friends and that’s where I can be myself,” she said.

At a school assembly, Rasheed’s success is celebrated.

But her greatest reward will be seeing how her students use the skills they’re learning now to bridge divides in the future.

“Not be afraid to work with somebody they don’t always work with, and not being afraid to step out of their comfort zone and build bridges,” she said.

Rasheed’s road to where she is now came with some resistance. She moved here when she was 18 to go to Macalester College.

Her family thought she was going to be a diplomat like her dad. But she couldn’t give up her love of theater and broke it to her parents that she was staying in Minneapolis to be an artist.

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She says there are many untold stories and untold truths in the world and she wants to use her skill sets in service of telling these stories.