|In this section of the Graded Gazette, we celebrate extraordinary students and their outstanding accomplishments in academics, athletics, the arts, service learning, and other extracurricular activities.|
Sixth-grader Maria M. brings her passion for the stage into everything she does. "I don't just love theater," she mused. "I use theater in all parts of my life—in school and real-life interactions. It helps me embrace new challenges and confront new situations.” She applies what she has learned on stage to class presentations, group work, social situations, and her volunteer work as a Graded Student Ambassador.
Middle School Counselor Heidi Pierce, one of the coordinators of the Student Ambassadors Program, observed that “Maria is a very dedicated, compassionate, and thoughtful student ambassador with a welcoming attitude that helps people feel connected and noticed. She is poised and always speaks with eloquence.”
At age five, Maria accompanied her mother to a production of the musical Aladdin. It was her first theatrical experience, and she was hooked. She remembers the moment with excitement: "I didn't blink the entire time. When I got home, I was singing and dancing, and I just knew I wanted to be a part of something like that." Maria didn't waste any time, debuting just a year later as Peter Pan's Wendy in a Miami summer theater program. She had been bitten by the acting bug.
A few years later, however, Maria had a painful moment on stage when she forgot her lines during a performance. She decided to take a break from the spotlight. However, she continued creating musicals with her friends at home and singing tunes while studying. Maria knew it wouldn't be long until she could work up the courage to give it another try. When she saw that the middle school offered a theater elective, she jumped at the chance and signed up.
“Maria sets very high goals and expectations for herself, especially as a sixth grader. She really goes after what she wants with determination,” remarked Beatriz Campos, her theater teacher. “She’s a leader in the classroom, encouraging everyone to participate and be a part of the class. She is proactive in sharing her own ideas and experiences from her previous theater work, and she brings her whole self into every scene or activity.”
An example of Maria’s leadership and determination is a project she launched last semester when she invited her classmates to join her new undertaking—a completely student-led musical. They found a student director, held blind auditions, assigned roles, and began rehearsals on campus. The production was coming together well when the students encountered a stumbling block. To continue, they needed a difficult-to-obtain theatrical license from the copyright holder. While the realization was disappointing, Maria is still proud of herself for taking on the project. She views the process as more important than the product. The experience taught her that with creativity and perseverance come endless possibilities and that new friendships can be forged through a common interest.
Today, Maria is busy rehearsing for Graded's upper school production of Beauty and the Beast, in which she portrays Chip Potts. In the future, she hopes to take classes at Escola de Atores Wolf Maya to hone her acting skills. Maria shines on the stage as well as in the classroom. Her curiosity, creativity, and perseverance are the outstanding attributes that have earned the young thespian the title of this month's exemplary eagle.