Morgan Nelson
Category: 2021 High School Winner

Morgan Nelson

While staring at the monumental columns towering the opulent hall as I entered its doors, I was mesmerized by the colossal ceiling that appeared as though it was situated near the stars. The century-old architectural designs enshrined into the walls were crafted by the greatest artistic talents. The enormous curtain adorned the stage like a majestic piece that was fit for royalty. I glared into the stage lighting that left nothing unnoticed, capturing even the smallest bead of sweat. The crowd’s piercing voices framed the intensity of the moment as if it was a highly anticipated championship game. I knew quickly that only the best would do.

Gazing across the audience landscape, I felt a piercing sense of the moment. Despite growing up in a rural, agrarian community in Mississippi, I reckoned that my passion, work ethic, and dedication to my craft would assail me to success notwithstanding competing against well-financed and storied dance programs whose biographies drape with top performances across the nation.

There I was pensively standing in the holding area as if I were next in line to a firing squad. My feet moored to the ground, hands clenched tight, and shoulders tensely locked. The time was near. As the dancer gracefully walked off stage to a rousing applause, I knew the occasion was here. Suddenly, my name was announced to the engaged audience as if I was the prime feature of a Broadway show. The spotlight quickly dashed in my direction, and I managed to finagle my body to center stage. These are the moments I live for.

Through my passion for dance and memorable moments backstage, I formed an indelible connection and inspiration to Misty Copeland. Every single girl in the world should know the story of this amazing woman. Her life is more than just a dancer. She marked history in being the first African-American Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Through her struggles of being told that the successful product of herself would never be made, she preserved; she proved them wrong. To little girls who grow up with big dreams, Misty Copeland is their light and image of a dream come true. She is an exceptional role model not only for the black community, not only for the little girls, but also a beacon for all humanity.

I am honored to have shared similar dance experiences with Misty Copeland. It’s motivational to know that she overcame the same anxieties and insecurities that I felt while she became one of the most inspirational, meaningful, and impactful dancers in the world.

I have found meaning and strength in life ever since that revealing day on stage when I almost allowed myself to embrace doubt instead of confidence. The art of dance and Misty Copeland’s influence triggered a drive within me to always express my inner feelings, cast away uncertainty, and show others that by shedding fear and releasing your inner strength one can enjoy boundless opportunities.