Learning Liftoff’s Class Acts series profiles inspiring online education graduates. Their stories showcase how individualized, award-winning curriculum and technology combine to greatly influence student success and help propel the pursuit of post-graduate dreams.

The path taken by aspiring ballerina Mckenzie Mullan of Woodstown, New Jersey, is not for everyone.

The 2015 graduate of George Washington University Online High School has spent much of her last three years living on her own in New York City in order to make her dancing dreams come true.

“This is a far too cut-throat world to dive into unless you are absolutely certain that dancing is the only future you want,” Mckenzie says. “It takes a very persistent, dedicated, relentless, and stubborn person to put in the hours upon hours needed. But, if you truly want to dance, then the few shining moments when you are completely lost in the movement and the music make every second worth it.”

Mckenzie, who turned 18 in June, has won the Junior Miss Dance XPlosion national title; won dance scholarships at the mini, junior, teen, and senior levels; and trained under leading instructors, including Gelsey Kirkland, Liudmila Polonskaya, Lyubov Fominich, Jessica Howard, and Vera Soloveyva. She was accepted into the highly selective Pace University commercial dance program and is preparing to attend the New York University Tisch School of Arts as a dance major.

Dancing success has meant long hours of practice for competitions and conventions, first locally, then nationally. “I was pulled aside at summer intensives and told that I had a lot of potential, but needed more technical training,” Mckenzie recalls. “As I began high school, I began attending The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia each evening after school. My poor mother was driving me back and forth to Philly (some 66 miles roundtrip) every single day.”

Prior to her junior year, Mckenzie gave up running high school cross-country, narrowed her dance focus to ballet and committed to online learning when she was offered a spot in the  Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet’s (GKA) year-round program in New York City.

“I was undeniably scared,” she says. “I had  never considered moving out on my own so quickly, let along leaving the school I had attended since pre-K, but I knew this was the next step I had been looking for. So, within two weeks, I was packed, enrolled in GWUOHS [George Washington University Online High School], moved to New York City on my own, and attending GKA.

“I had never done so much ballet in my life. I would be in the studio from 8:45 AM to around 6 PM—sometimes later depending on rehearsal schedules.”

And still, there was school work to be done.

“After traveling home, cooking myself dinner and all those ‘adult  things,’ I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning to accomplish all of my academic work,” Mckenzie recalled. “ It is because of GWUOHS that I could train at GKA and still have the opportunity to attend such a selective university like NYU.”

Initially, Mckenzie was concerned about the impact online schooling might have on her applications to top colleges.

“I actually called and emailed various admissions offices prior to committing to GKA to ensure that online school would not negatively impact my application,” she said. “When I mentioned GWUOHS as a school I was considering, they encouraged me that the program was highly regarded and seen as equal to a traditional school. I am very thankful to GWUOHS … for being so supportive of my dance training, always going above and beyond to help me accomplish both my academic and artistic goals.”

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