Three years ago, the Dixon family moved from Severna Park to the Epping Forest community.
They moved, in part, so the parents would be closer to where they work, but, the move served to bring Elisabeth "Lizzy" Dixon, now 17, closer to a world more conducive to her emerging talents.
Lizzy, in her senior year in the International Baccalaureate Program at Annapolis High School, is active in the school's drama company and its community of thespians, singers, dancers, designers, techies, crew, makeup artists and critics.
Since 2013, she has appeared in either a featured or ensemble role in nine Annapolis High School Drama Company productions. She has also been cast in shows at the Laurel Mills Playhouse, the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, Children's Theater of Annapolis and twice at Compass Rose Young Actor's Studio.
"I've been in every fall play and spring musical at Annapolis High since freshman year and will be in 'West Side Story' my final semester," she said. The teen is the secretary of the International Thespian Honor Society and is a member of the National Honor Society. Last year, she was one of three Annapolis High juniors selected by school administrators for the 2016 Capital Gazette High School Outstanding Student Achievers awards.
"What impresses me about Lizzy is her 'can do attitude,' " said IB Coordinator Patricia Newgent. "IB is a rigorous program of study, and yet Lizzy is capable of meeting every challenge. Lizzy is a straight-A student who still finds time to participate in after-school activities. Additionally, she is always quick with a smile, and often volunteers to assist with various IB parent functions."
In the IB Program, her extended essay is focused on "Pride and Prejudice." She's acted in two shows that were versions of the book and loves Jane Austen's writing.
Her essay is about the character Mary Bennet. The perfect character is always June Bennet, the oldest of the sisters. The ugly, put-upon character is usually Mary, the middle sister.
"I'm exploring Austen's misogyny," she said. "With the Drama Club, I act, sing, dance and also create, gather or alter props for shows."
For her first show as a prop mistress, she made a giant turkey for a dinner scene in "A Christmas Carol." Her favorite prop was made by a friend who crafted a button-operated spinning bow tie for last year's musical "Hairspray."
Andrew Parr, head of the school's dramatics programs and an IB Theatre Arts instructor, said Lizzy has been a vital member of the Drama Company and school community.
"Her writing skills are impressive and proficient and her organizational skills with our theater's properties will carry her far in both her academic and professional pursuits. She brings a natural charm and grace to the stage in all productions I have had the privilege to see her perform," Parr said. "Besides her theatrical skills, I appreciate her eagerness to embrace diversity and leadership. She is an advocate for love, equality and kindness, and Annapolis High School is lucky to have her."
Her sophomore year, she also began looking at shows with a critic's eye. She joined the Cappie Team of teens who visit productions at other participating area high schools and produce reviews. Mentors evaluate the reviews and select the top three for publication.
The results of the Cappie teams votes are tallied to produce regional Cappies of Baltimore Award winners, announced during a gala evening in Baltimore. The Cappies are a teen version of the Tony Awards in New York or the Helen Hayes Awards in the D.C. area.
The Panthers Cappies Team was designated as the Lead Critic Team for 2014 and 2015.
Last year, Lizzy was lauded as the Best Junior Critic in the region. Her reviews were posted in the three remaining high school newspapers in print and in area schools' online news sites.
Ben Korbelak sponsors the Improv Troupe that Lizzy helped found. Annapolis High School's Improv Troupe is called "PantherProv."
"Lizzy took the initiative two years ago to propose it to the directors of Annapolis' Drama Company, and since then she has served as the Improv Troupe manager for every show and rehearsal," said Korbelak.
Lizzy's mother is Kim Dixon, a kindergarten teacher at Rolling Knolls Elementary School. Her father, Randy Dixon, is a federal employee. Lizzy has two siblings: Grace Dixon, 16, a junior at Annapolis High; and 13-year-old Natalie Dixon, a seventh-grader in the dance program of Bates Middle School's Performing and Visual Arts magnet program.
A little more than two years ago, while reflecting with Natalie about the preteen's entry and transition into middle school life, the sisters stumbled onto a site called Girl Talk. Soon, some of Natalie's friends also expressed concern about transitioning into middle school and the teen years.
Through word of mouth, in person and online, Lizzy got the word out that she was starting a Girl Talk Peer Mentoring group for middle and high school girls. It is not limited to one school, and girls throughout the area meet every other Sunday evening.
In preparation for these meetings, the high school girls get together once a month to plan lessons, talk about body image, how to stop bullying or make plans for fun activities with the younger girls, like bowling.
The meeting sites rotate through various members' houses.
She is also involved in the GIRL UP campaign of a U.N. foundation. It's a grass-roots organization on high school and college campuses.
"I'm learning how to empower girls and women, and I'm advocating on issues. Plus we do fundraising, awareness and education," she said. The club chapter at Annapolis High has about 15 members.
In her spare time, she has a part-time Sunday afternoon job at Clay Bakers on Main Street, and, Sunday mornings, she's a teacher's aide in St. Mary's Sunday school classes.
She is in the process of applying to several colleges. Lizzy is seeking a small, liberal arts college in the Northeast. She is looking at several options, perhaps double majoring in biology and literature with a minor in Italian. She is also considering schools that have "open majors" programs where students don't declare their major until junior year. The teen is looking forward to the culture and traditions of college life.
Beyond college, "I have a lot of options," Lizzy said. "I'm considering nonprofit management or a service-based job that will help the world. I'm also interested in social work – being a pediatrician or … a museum curator. The common theme is helping people and not being in a cubicle."
Do you know an exemplary teen?
Anyone may nominate a Teen of the Week. To be considered, nominated teens must reside in Anne Arundel County or Kent Island and be enrolled in a high school program. Send nominations by email to Wendi Winters at email@example.com.