STOCKTON — From a young age, 22-year-old Stockton resident Nic Allen loved theater.
His grandparents remember how he would watch “Peter Pan” and mimic the movements and lines performed by lead Cathy Rigby.
As he grew older, he fell in love with live theater performances of “Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables,” “Grease” and “The Lion King,” among others.
Along the way, he caught the acting bug while attending Lincoln Unified School District, landed roles here and there, and now, he is hoping to make his dreams of becoming a full-time actor real by attending California State University, Fresno’s Wayfinders program in the fall.
Wayfinders is a two-year non-degree independent living certificate program for young adults age 18-28 with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A former part-time student at San Joaquin Delta College, Allen has Down syndrome but hasn’t let the condition hinder his ability to pursue his ultimate career.
“I love acting,” he said. “Acting is fun. I like the lights, the sets. Everything about it is just really cool.”
Allen was one of hundreds across the state with varying disabilities to apply for the Wayfinders program. This year’s freshman class will consist of only 18 students.
His ultimate career goal is to be work for the Disney Corporation, either on one of the entertainment giant’s television series on the Disney Channel, or in its live action films.
He is particularly fond of the “Descendants” series of films that center around the lives of the children of Disney villains.
The third in the series is due out next year, and Allen hopes that by the time he completes the Wayfinders program, he lands a role in a fourth installment.
He would also like to be cast in an upcoming “Star Wars” film as well.
“I wanted to be in these productions because I’ve never been in a movie before,” he said. “They’ve never had a character with Down syndrome and I want to be the first.”
Allen has already appeared several productions, including an unaired Amazon Prime pilot and an Adventist HealthCare commercial. He recently was cast as the lead in a short film entitled “Sweet Mercy,” which will soon appear at an independent film festival.
An advocate for others with Down syndrome, Allen has the distinction of being the first recipient of a scholarship to attend the program through The Brighterside of Down Syndrome, a local nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of the condition and support for family members.
Allen will live on campus and have a job there as well. He said he was nervous about going to Fresno because of the change in lifestyle.
“Before I had a going-away party (at home), I was nervous,” he said. “Then after that, I just want to get on with my life. I’m getting over it.”
His grandparents Patti and White also have reservations, but are also optimistic that he’ll achieve his goals.
“I always believed that by having Nic do ‘normal things’ and the more we could have him interact with regular kids, he’d do better,” Norm White said. “And by doing that, the ‘normal’ kids now have a better understanding of disabilities.”
Patti Allen said it will be a challenge for her grandson to adapt to things outside his Stockton comfort zone.
“It’s just a big change,” Patti White said. “He could come home from school or drama class and tell us what happened. Now, because he is in Fresno, the calls are few and far between. We’ve tried to keep him involved and active, and we want him to have a happy life.”
For more information about the Wayfinders program, go to fresnostate.edu/academics/grants/centers/wayfinders.html. For more information about The Brighterside of Down Syndrome, go to tbods.com.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at (209) 546-8258, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WesBo26.
CORRECTION: Sept. 6, 2018
Patti White's name was incorrect in the print and initial online version of this story. The error has been corrected.