COCA believes all students who participate in the arts gain confidence, discipline and a diverse worldview. Some are able to combine those life skills with learned technique and natural talents to achieve success as professional artists. COCA proudly recognizes these former COCA students for their talents and dedication to the arts by honoring them with the COCA Distinguished Alumni Award.

In addition to receiving prominent recognition on a Wall of Fame in COCA’s building, winners of the COCA Distinguished Alumni Award are recognized on the COCA stage at a special event and serve as role models and mentors for current COCA students.

 

2021 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Greg Cuellar

BFA, Actor

Greg Cuellar is an LA-based actor, deeply honored to be presented with the Alumni Award. A native of St. Louis, Greg first began his acting training at COCA as a member of the COCA Theatre Company. Under the tutelage of Ed Reggi, Greg became a young professional in the St. Louis theatre community performing with companies such as Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Paperslip Improv, Insight Theatre, Mustardseed Theatre, Metro Theatre Company, and more. Greg earned his BA in Theatre from Saint Louis University, where he was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. He remained in St. Louis working as a teaching artist for COCA’s urban arts and summer camps. He was also the drama instructor for Gitana Productions’ cross-cultural arts programming, working with pupils in underserved communities and within the juvenile detention system. In 2014, Greg was awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Scholarship and attended Columbia University for his MFA in Acting on a full ride. There, he was additionally awarded the Bob Hope Acting Fellowship and was the assistant to theatre legend Andrei Serban. Greg recently made his network television debut on New Amsterdam (NBC). Select NYC credits: Comedy of Errors (Classic Stage); Play On! Shakespeare Festival (CSC/OSF); Jeremy O. Harris’ the feels…KMS (American AF Festival); development workshops for Apple TV, Playwrights Realm, The Lark, Trans Theatre Lab, The Civilians, and more; former residency at The International WOW Company. Upcoming: I Wanna F*ck Like Romeo and Juliet (New Light Theatre Project). Education: Columbia University. This one’s for Barb. Mní Wičóni

Jamal Green

Dancer & Entertainment Consultant

St. Louis native Jamal DeAndre started his training young at the age of six at COCA with jazz, ballet, and tap. As a kid with a short attention span, Jamal was interested in other arts that took him away from dance but eventually brought him back. In Jamal’s later years of high school, he began training professionally with Anthony “Redd” Williams who then reintroduced him to COCA and a whole new world of dance. In 2015, Jamal made the decision to move Los Angeles to pursue the commercial dance industry. Jamal has been blessed with the opportunity to have worked with Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, and more. Jamal currently resides in Los Angeles and continues to live the dream.

Yvette Lu

SAG-AFTRA, AEA, BFA, Actor

Yvette Lu is an LA-based Chinese-American actor, performer, and creator. A native of St. Louis, she danced competitively at Charmette Academy of Dance and received additional dance and theatre training from COCA. They attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in the Experimental Theatre Wing as well as Stella Adler Studio of Acting and the Shanghai Theatre Academy. Credits include the first National Tour (Angelica) and Los Angeles Company (Eliza) of Hamilton, FX’s Fosse/Verdon, The Muny, ABC Discovers Showcase 2020. They are repped by KMR Talent and Epic Talent Management. With her work, she hopes to continue expanding the scope of visibility for Asian-Americans in the arts—on stage, on screen, and behind the table.

Kaitlyn Mayse

BFA, Musical Theatre Professional

Kaitlyn Mayse caught the theatre bug early at seven years old when she was put into a high school production of The Wizard of Oz as a munchkin; after that, it was full steam ahead. She sought out anything that could teach her more about song, dance, and storytelling and COCA checked every box. She took class from incredible professionals who took her love of the arts and showed her how to turn it into a craft and career. Kaitlyn was a member of the COCA Theatre Company and participated in many of the summer musicals, including the 10th Anniversary celebration production of Ragtime. After graduating, Kaitlyn attended Indiana University and earned her BFA in Musical Theatre with a dance certificate. She then moved to New York City and has been a working professional ever since, appearing in regional productions, TV, and national tours, including leading the national tour of Cinderella as Cinderella.

Shacura Wade

BFA, Ensemble Member, The Lion King Rafiki Tour (Broadway)

Shacura Wade is an American dancer, rapper, songwriter, actress, and creative teacher. Born and raised in St. Louis, Shacura began her professional training as a student at COCA. She graduated from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in 2011 and earned her BFA from The University of Missouri – Kansas City in 2015. Shortly thereafter, Shacura moved to the Big Apple to pursue a higher calling, where she began teaching and focusing on her spiritual practices during the off seasons of work. After two years of gigging and learning more about herself, she reluctantly attended an open call audition for The Lion King and booked the show shortly after. Joining The Lion King in 2017 opened doors to new levels and meanings of self-expression for her. Being a part of such a historically popular show catapulted her into music, acting, and podcasting of her own. Shacura began to produce and direct her own music videos as a means of healing and creative liberation in a world of limitations. Currently finishing out her last leg of the Rafiki tour, Shacura is preparing to take a moment to pause and redirect her vision given the current state of the world.

COCA Distinguished Alumni Awards Nominations

Please use the form below to nominate yourself or a deserving COCA alumnus or alumna for consideration.

Submit your nominations below: