More than once while Sarah Alexander was growing up, her ballet teachers thought she should limit school and focus on a professional dance career. But the young dancer, who began taking lessons at the age of 3, was determined to figure out how to pursue both school and dance.
Next month, the fourth-year New Orleans native will walk the Lawn in Final Exercises as a Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a degree from the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Through Batten projects and her volunteer work with Madison House’s Cavs in the Classroom, and even in ballet, she has learned a set of leadership skills that combine organization and attention to detail with a dancer’s confidence and grace.
“I knew I enjoyed school and I love learning,” Alexander said. Working with young pupils through Cavs in the Classroom – not to mention growing up in Louisiana, with a struggling public education system – has shown her firsthand the importance of education, she said. “I believe the solutions to our problems lie with making sure we have an educated citizenry.”
Cavs in the Classroom is one of 22 programs offered through Madison House, the independent, nonprofit UVA student volunteer center. Essentially, college students act as teacher’s aides in local elementary schools and lead groups of children in activities covering reading, math, spelling lessons and art projects.
“We’re helping the schoolchildren – not by doing things for them, but empowering them to do better themselves,” Alexander said.