Alicia was raised in Sacramento, but moved up to Humboldt County when she was just a teenager to join Earth First! and the movement to protect the redwoods. She was involved in many years of protesting and activism, working closely with Judi Bari, the prominent environmental activist from Willits who was notoriously car-bombed in 1990 and arrested by the FBI and Oakland Police. Living and working with Judi in Mendocino County until her death in 1997, Alicia then moved to Ukiah and dedicated herself to pursuing Bari's civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and OPD. A great victory was achieved in 2002, in a trial by jury: Judi Bari was exonerated from all charges and the FBI and Oakland were found liable for millions of dollars in damages for First and Fourth Amendment violations. Though a very exciting time for Alicia, it still left her quite exhausted on many levels. She came back home to Ukiah after eleven years of political activism, not sure what to do next. She had been far too busy with her activism work to get a formal education, and felt the lack of not a single day of college.
When Alicia's son Jude was born in 2004, it was a life-changing event for her, and continues to provide all the motivation she needs to "persevere and succeed every single day." Parenthood caused her to take a good look at her life now that "traveling around on speaking tours, staying up all night planning protests at basecamp, and attending activist gatherings in the woods was no longer an option." She started taking classes at Mendocino College, just one at a time at first. "I lived in Mendocino County almost 12 years before I set foot on campus. I finally took the plunge and signed up for a beginning acting class in 2003 because I wanted to audition for plays and check out the amazing local theater scene, but I was too shy to do it without some practice."
Apparently, she got overcame her shyness, because Alicia graduated from Mendocino College in 2009, with a degree in Theatre Arts and says "Mendocino College is a huge part of my success. Graduating was a great achievement in itself. Being able to take my pre-requisites at Mendocino and come out debt-free was great, but more than that, the College provided an incredibly supportive environment with a diversity of students and truly dedicated professors. The quality of the education I received at was very high, especially in my theater classes, and I was given incredible opportunities for success and recognition that are not available at larger universities."
Alicia found both a friend and mentor in Reid Edelman, Theatre Director at Mendocino College. "I honestly couldn't have done any of this without the constant support offered by Reid Edelman. The man has been an unwavering advocate for me, always willing to write a letter of recommendation no matter how many times I asked. He is incredibly skilled at what he does, and his expertise and work with students and the theater is comparable to anything I experienced at UC Berkeley. He is a treasure!"
Alicia also felt that Lesley Saxon West and Sandy Metzler of the dance department were incredibly supportive and wonderful, as well as Deborah White in the Math department, "who made me feel really smart at math even though I was a theater major." Deena Watson-Krasts kept her "fit and happy, too!" she remembers. Another mentor that she discovered at Mendocino College was her voice teacher, Marilyn Simpson; right now she is "trying to remember everything she (Simpson) ever taught me" since one of Alicia's current jobs is teaching voice classes for the first time.
Like many of us, Alicia feels her greatest obstacles have been "predominantly self-inflicted, mostly limits on what I think I can achieve being a single mom in my late thirties. This probably sounds unbelievable considering that I just graduated from UC Berkeley and will be moving to London with my son in August to pursue my Master's Degree, but each step of the way I have had to confront my idea of who I am and what my life can be, and keep moving forward into the unknown … It's really true that in order to make a life change, one has to be willing to let go of who we are now, and that's not an easy thing."
Alicia also learned that being open to different ways of seeing and thinking about the world "can really challenge our own sense of who we are." It wasn't easy for her, being a "country radical," to navigate through the bureaucracy at UC Berkeley, and she felt she "never really understood how to get ahead in the academic world of kissing-up to authority." Her efforts paid off however, and Alicia graduated UCB with a 4.0 GPA, and is "very proud of my accomplishments at Berkeley."
A big part of success is facing your fears; Alicia is no exception: "I am afraid all the time, mostly about being too stressed and tired to enjoy life. But I am even more afraid of having to work a low-paying job that takes me away from my son during his childhood and still doesn't pay the bills. I'm actively fighting this fear all the time, mostly by staying engaged with what I love to do and applying for jobs within that field. I am very stressed having graduated, working several jobs, and getting ready for the move to London, but I'm very excited that I have something so awesome to look forward to. And I'll come back able to teach and build a private practice if I choose, so I'm thrilled."
When asked what she thinks is the secret to success Alicia says, "Taking the things you care about seriously and being willing to put your mind and your muscle behind it so there is no chance of not succeeding. Being well-organized, breaking your vision down into doable parts and then making sure the parts get done well." She is the most proud of "providing a role-model for her son," and most grateful for "the hills of Mendocino County, which remain there for me to come back home to whenever this big crazy world gets me too scrambled."
Alicia is now off with her precious son to London for a year! "I'm going to get my MA in Voice Studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama and he's going to spend his third grade year there with me. Alicia dreams of finding her artistic community and becoming "an amazing theater practitioner and sharing my appreciation of theater with others while making a living." We wish Alicia all the luck in the world, and can't wait to catch up with her after this next adventure.
Alicia Ann Bales, Mendocino College Success Story
Date of interview: May 22, 2012
Written by Christine Mullis