Student Pursues Dream 1,000 Miles Away

by KATIE MCKEE

February 26, 2014

One dream has led her 1,000 miles away from home and surrounded her by strangers.

For Texas Tech University Independent School District (TTUISD) junior Kellie Sanchez, ballet is worth it.

Kellie, a 17-year-old Texas native who began dancing at 3 years old, attended a 5-week summer program in 2013 with Ballet Chicago. A few weeks into the program Kellie’s dream of becoming a professional dancer got a little closer.

“I got an offer to dance in Chicago year round,” she said. “I worked with my old high school and they gave me options for online school, and we looked at all of them and decided to go with Texas Tech.”

Kellie accepted the offer, and now lives in Chicago alone while she studies the George Balanchine style of ballet.

Although transitioning from her private school, Ursuline Academy, to full-time online courses with TTUISD hasn’t been easy, Kellie said the key is discipline — something she does by setting aside 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day for course work.

However, Kellie isn’t the only one who has to adjust to her new living arrangements.

Diane Sanchez, Kellie’s mother, said the offer came as a surprise.

“I had no idea that she would be asked to stay for the entire year,” she said. “Of course I miss her terribly because we weren’t anticipating having to let her go at such a young age. I’m very, very proud of her, but at the same time I really miss her a lot.”

Kellie stays busy in Chicago, attending class six days per week. Having just finished with “The Nutcracker,” Kellie’s next performance is May 18, and will include “Swan Lake,” originally choreographed by Balanchine.

Attending TTUISD, she said, allows her to divide her time and concentrate on her passion.

“With the online school, it makes it easier to make that commitment to dance but also still be able to focus on school,” Kellie said. “I can devote myself to school and dance without having to sacrifice one or the other.”

While attending a traditional brick and mortar school, Kellie said she struggled with balancing schoolwork and ballet.

“It was really stressful,” she said. “I was staying up really late at night trying to finish my work and study. I would be really tired the next day because of how late I had to stay up. So, I think with online school, it’s helped me a lot.”

This challenge is one she sees her classmates at Ballet Chicago facing as well.

“It’s really helped because there’s some kids who go to Ballet Chicago who go to normal schools or private schools and they have a lot of homework,” Kellie said, “and sometimes they can’t always make it to all of their ballet classes because of all the homework and tests they have in traditional school.”

Diane said she is happy with the flexibility TTUISD offers Kellie, and the options of extending courses and working at her own pace.

“It allows her the flexibility to go to dance whenever she needs to because sometimes she had to be at dance all day on a Friday, or be at a performance in the middle of a school day, so she was able to do that because she wasn’t stuck in a classroom,” she said.

When Kellie isn’t dancing or studying for TTUISD, she spends her time learning Arabic and practicing photography.

For students who have an active lifestyle, Kellie said she recommends enrolling in TTUISD to eliminate stress.

“It’s a really good idea because then you can focus both on school and your activity,” she said.

Parents also benefit from enrolling their students with TTUISD, Diane said.

“It’s definitely a good choice because on the parent side, you do have somebody answering the phone and responding to your emails,” she said. “The work is challenging, so I feel like if Ursuline recommended you, then it’s a good recommendation. I would say it’s definitely worth pursuing.”

Although her future plans are not set in stone, Kellie said she is considering attending college upon graduation, or becoming a full-time, professional dancer.

Kellie will return to her hometown of Rockwall, Texas, at the end of May once she finishes her classes with Ballet Chicago, and looks forward to reuniting with her friends and family.

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