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North High student accepted for NYU summer course

March 29, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Pine Island Eagle

Only 18 high school students worldwide get the opportunity to take summer courses at one of the most prestigious art schools in the world.

A.J. Gross, a junior at North Fort Myers High School and a Cape Coral resident, is going to be one of them.

But first, he has to raise the money to do it.

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A.J. Gross will attend a summer program at New York University.


Gross has been selected from among thousands of students to take part in the Tisch Summer High School Drama Program at New York University, a condensed version of the training in the undergraduate drama program.

To raise the $8,000 to attend, Gross and his family have set up a Gofundme page, and the teen will be making special appearances to add to that total. So far, Gross is about a quarter of the way toward his goal.

Jamie Gross, A.J.'s mother, said they applied, not really believing he would be accepted. When he was accepted, they were blown away.

"You apply and you don't think much of it. When we found out he got in, the price was outrageous, but he's getting four NYU credits and only 18 are accepted worldwide," Jamie said.

"We thought it wouldn't hurt to try. When it came, it was a serious moment because we didn't think it was possible," A.J. said. "The world is a big place and I didn't think I would be noticed. They want students who are really serious about acting and want to take that next step."

A.J. started performing as a dancer at age 8 after a friends convinced him to give it a shot. He got the acting bug at Challenger Middle School.

"I went to a class and it wasn't bad. As the years progressed I did more and more," A.J. said. "In middle school I found out there was an acting class and learned I liked acting even more than dance. They go hand in hand."

A.J.'s dance experience proved valuable, as he got into the musicals at school. By the time he reached eighth grade, he said things really started clicking for him.

His first lead role was in "13-The Musical" at the Community Theater Workshop." He has also had lead roles in "Macbeth" The Little Mermaid and "Beauty & The Beast."

"I enjoyed the show and really enjoyed performing and giving something for the audience to think about," A.J. said.

Gross has done more than 20 shows on the community theater circuit, many of them lead roles. He said he wants to get into doing film, but he could also sing and dance if he had to.

The program will include conservatory training with time in studio and New York theater. Students will learn screen acting and character, multi-camera acting, sit-coms, improve, commercials and business, voice-overs, voice on screen, auditions and more.

Gross, who plays football and wrestles at North, will play the creepy talent agent in "Rock of Ages'" in the school musical next week. He will be at the Sanibel Community House on April 2 for a meet- and-greet and auction.

Ida Baker High School will hold a showcase May 12 to raise money for Gross and other students interested in theater.

He also will be in "Big River -Adventures of Huck Finn" on May 5 and 6 at the Florida Repertory Theatre, and "Peter and the Starcatchers" on May 24-27.

"I want to take that next jump. I love acting, and this will give me the opportunity to get where I need to be. The opportunities up there are different than the ones down here," Gross said.

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