The Aegis
Harford County

Bel Air native, high school senior, is candidate for U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts

Sarah Lapointe, who grew up in Bel Air, is a candidate for U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts.

Bel Air native Sarah Lapointe will find out next month if she has been selected as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, which would make her one of 20 high school seniors from across the nation to travel to Washington, D.C. in June for a recognition ceremony.

"If we are selected, we go to perform in front of the president and receive the award from him," Lapointe, 18, said during a recent interview.


Lapointe focuses on ballet, but said she has practiced other forms of dance, such as jazz, tap and modern.

"My mom put me in ballet when I was 2 years old, and I've been dancing ever since," she said.


Lapointe is one of 60 people in contention for the 20 arts scholars to be selected. The 20 arts scholars who are selected will be recognized along with 121 other U.S. Presidential Scholars selected for academic talents, according to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program website.

The program was established in 1964 by executive order of President Lyndon B. Johnson, and it was expanded in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to honor students' artistic accomplishments, also according to the program website.

Presidential Scholars do not receive scholarships, but they do get the opportunity to travel to the nation's capital, be recognized during a White House-sponsored ceremony, plus see the sights in Washington and interact with top political figures, educators, scientists and artists.

Those who are selected for the honor have "the chance to exchange ideas with similarly motivated and accomplished peers, and to forge friendships that last a lifetime," according to the website.

Lapointe is the daughter of Steven and Elizabeth Lapointe, of Bel Air, and grew up in the Bel Air area.

She spent her elementary and middle school years at Fountain Green Elementary School and Mountain Christian School in Joppa. She attended the Baltimore School for the Arts during her freshman year of high school, and she has been studying ballet at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia since her sophomore year.

"Sarah is awesome," Stephanie Spassoff, artistic director for The Rock School, said. "We love her to death; she's a great kid, and I couldn't be happier for her."

The Rock School also has an academic curriculum, and Lapointe takes additional high school classes online through Keystone National High School, which is a distance-learning school headquartered in Bloomsburg, Pa., as well as college-level classes through University of Maryland University College.


"When I have time, I try to come home to see my family," she said.

She said she wanted to complete some college courses before she graduates from high school this year, since she expects to join a dance company in the fall.

"At first it was very hard to balance my schedule for dance and school," Lapointe said. "Now that I'm used to it, I stay ahead of my schedule so I don't fall behind. Sometimes the day gets filled up with dance and I don't have much time to do school work, so I'll spend my weekends doing school work, or [study] late at night."

Lapointe was nominated for the Presidential Scholar program by the NationalYoungArtsFoundation. The Foundation, headquartered in Miami, Fla., is the "sole nominating agency" for Presidential Scholars in the Arts, according to its website.

Lapointe was selected as a candidate after she and her fellow applicants spent a week in Miami in January auditioning for YoungArts officials.

"That was an amazing experience," she said.


Lapointe was able to meet fellow high school students in a variety of artistic disciplines, including singers, musicians and visual artists.

She said she had a roommate who was a painter, and the applicants spent their first day interacting with each other through a variety of activities, "so you were able to branch out and learn from everyone."

Lapointe said she and her fellow dancers had several days to attend classes and rehearse, and then they performed for YoungArts judges. She said applicants in the various disciplines were able to see each others' performances, and "they were always excited to see the dance part."

"It was really fun, because everyone was really supportive, and everyone was interested to see everyone's talent," she recalled.

The Rock School, a boarding school in Philadelphia, is open to students from ages 3 to 22, according to Spassoff, the artistic director. It has about 350 students.

Spassoff and her husband Bo, who is the director and president, operate the school.


"It's wonderful," she said of Lapointe's selection as a candidate. "It really is wonderful, and she is just an incredible kid, amazing work ethic way beyond her years."

Spassoff said two students have been selected as Presidential Scholars in prior years.

"It's very significant for someone at her stage in the game to be acknowledged like that, but not surprising to us that know her," she said of Lapointe.

Lapointe said she said being a Presidential Scholar candidate is "exciting," but she is trying not to get her hopes up about being chosen "in case it doesn't happen."

"Just being a candidate is very exciting," she said.