Extraordinary Teen Awards 2018

If you need a reason to be optimistic about the future, look no further.

Photo by Michael Ventura.

Avery Erskine

Washington-Lee High School Avery

Erskine is a born performer. She started taking dance classes when she was 2 and danced with the Washington Ballet from age 8 until the demands of W-L’s rigorous IB program led her to hang up her toe shoes. “It was a wonderful experience…but it was time to let it go,” says the Arlington teen. “Reinventing myself was a challenge; it was a whole identity I had to reshape.”

She found a new calling in theater, appearing in several high school productions—including Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and John Van Druten’s I Remember Mama—and spending a week in New York City studying acting at the New York Film Academy. She was the first student to serve on the Arlington Commission for the Arts, where she advocated for more targeted college counseling for students interested in performing arts careers.

Theater, Erskine says, enabled her to “find my identity and grow up. When you’re trying to find a character to perform, it’s very vulnerable. Embarrassing yourself in front of a bunch of people really brings you closer.” It also teaches humility, she adds. After auditioning for the musical Pippin in her junior year, she expected to at least be chosen for the ensemble, if not a leading role. But the show’s professional choreographer deflated her group by saying, “You know how people come into a room and you want to cast them? You guys are not those people.” She got over it, and her theater teacher urged her to take bigger risks in auditions, which she did, earning meatier roles.

Erskine’s interest in comparative literature led her to spend the summer after her sophomore year at Harvard studying archetypes of modern culture. She earned a 4.47 GPA, scored a 1540 on the SAT and plans to attend the University of Virginia this fall. She envisions a career as a writer or a professor.

Categories: People