From Second Grade to CMU

The day before the semester started, J.D. Hopper got sick and had to be admitted to the hospital overnight. This wasn’t how the San Diego native pictured preparing for his first day at Carnegie Mellon University. Even though he was 2,400 miles away from home, Hopper had a familiar face to turn to during a stressful time - lifelong friend and fellow first-year student, Pablo Anton.

For Hopper and Anton, coming to Carnegie Mellon has been the latest chapter in a lifelong friendship.

Now sophomore lighting design majors, Hopper and Anton’s friendship dates back to second grade when they attended the same Spanish immersion elementary school. By middle school, Hopper began exploring the world of technical theater. It wasn’t long before Anton became involved as well. The pair spent their high-school years designing shows together and developing a shared passion for theater production.

"Our school had just built a new performing arts center that had a lot of equipment that our teachers weren’t trained to use," said Anton. "We began helping out with shows and became so involved that we actually started designing shows ourselves. Eventually, the school became fully dependent on us for production."

Common interests have kept the duo friends, and a mutual love of theater production landed them at Carnegie Mellon together.

When Hopper and Anton realized that their extracurricular activities could be a career path, they began exclusively exploring universities with top-tier technical theater programs. They applied to many of the same schools, and even drove to Los Angeles together for their CMU School of Drama interviews and portfolio reviews. While they hoped they might end up together, neither made their final choice based on the preferences of the other.

"Having each other around makes everything easier. It’s like a part of home that we brought with us to Pittsburgh." - Pablo Anton

"We felt extremely lucky that CMU chose both of us and that the Lighting Design program was a great fit in the end. It was a great situation for both of us," said Hopper.

While starting college marks a time of new beginnings, Hopper and Anton bring with them shared experiences that span more than a decade.

"It’s interesting to have someone around who knows the context of your entire life," said Hopper. "We’ll be talking about something in class and I’ll think to myself, ’That would have been helpful to know when we were wracking our brains working on a show together in high school.’"

As students in the same major with the same professional goals (both hope to work as lighting designers on a Broadway show), there is a fair amount of healthy competition between the two. Hopper and Anton say that they push each other to be better, but more importantly, are always there to support one another.

"Having each other around makes everything easier," said Anton. "It’s like a part of home that we brought with us to Pittsburgh."


J.D. Hopper (left in both photos) and Pablo Anton (right in both photos) became friends in second grade. Both now attend Carnegie Mellon University and study lighting design, another chapter in their lifelong friendship.


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