This story was published in the 2011-12 MU High School bulletin (July 2011).
To perform on stage on a day when others her age are in the classroom is “exhilarating,” says new MU High School graduate Beth Miller.
But make no mistake — her comment comes not because she enjoys getting out of schoolwork, quite the opposite. Beth graduated from MU after taking 16 courses for 24 credits and maintaining a 3.9 GPA. Then add to that academic performance eight hours of ballet practice daily, all done living away from her home in Virginia, at a ballet school in Houston.
“School has always been important to me,” says the hardworking dancer. “In a way, school is escape into normal life.”
Beth moved to Texas at age 16 after completing her first two years of high school at a traditional school, all the while driving 45 minutes to practice four to five hours every afternoon at a dance school near Washington, D.C.
“At first, Beth wanted regular high school with the social stuff,” says her mom, Karen, “but she also wanted to be a ballet dancer, and she couldn’t continue with public school. There is no way she could have graduated and done this.“
But Beth admits the transition to living on her own and starting online high school, which would take her through her junior and senior years, had its bumps. “It was tough,” she says. “I got a little behind on my school work at first, but I caught up and got in a rhythm. It turned out great.”
Karen says she almost brought her home but gave her necessary time to adjust to being away from home, her demanding schedule and her new academic format. Thanks to Beth’s dedication and perseverance, coupled with MU High School’s flexibility, Karen says she smoothed out the bumps ahead of her peers.
“She could pick and choose classes and tailor a program for her as a person and a student,” Karen says. “I was very impressed with the classes. Some dancers enroll in programs that aren’t as academically challenging, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to prepare her for college,” she says. “MU’s academics were very good, and I definitely feel like she got a good education that allowed her to balance school and dance.”
Most importantly, says Karen, a public school teacher, “the high school really listened to us and our needs. They looked at her situation and her as a person.”
Beth agrees. “I had a great experience. They’re very accommodating of my lifestyle and thought of me as a person and not an ID number, even though they’ve never met me. They just made everything a lot easier.”
Having danced for 11 years, 18-year-old Beth says she will consider college after she’s “danced out.” For now, that day is far in the future. Beth currently dances with the Houston Ballet where she enjoys devoting all her time and energy to pursuing her dream.