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Class act / An outstanding young Western New Yorker

Sixteen-year-old Olivia M. Cortese, of Lockport, has been in ballet since age 5, and she now dances for the Lockport City Ballet.

"I think I like to dance because it is fun, and it's sometimes relaxing, especially after a stressful day at school," said the Nardin Academy junior.

"It's part of my everyday life," said Olivia, who started with jazz and tap before moving on to ballet.

"I find ballet challenges me and makes me work hard," she said. "Ballet also teaches discipline - very helpful in school."

While a student at DeSales Catholic School in Lockport, Olivia won a Junior National Achievement Young Leaders Conference Award in 2001, given to students for outstanding achievement and top grades.

Since attending Nardin, she's volunteered for many activities, such as meeting with incoming freshmen, the school's Peer Ministry, the yearbook and the post-prom party.

Last summer, she attended the counselor-in-training program at Camp Kenan, where she's been a camper since age 6. After the training program, she was asked to return as a counselor.

Along with ballet, Olivia plays the piano. She's already considering colleges with good dance programs.

"I was thinking about going to school to be an art teacher, among other things," she said. "I really like art, and I'm taking two art courses this year at school, hopefully more next year. I also like interior design and culinary arts, especially baking. I think I'm interested in pretty much any career where I can be creative. I have even thought about becoming a pediatrician.

"I think the secret to academic success is simple - time management. It was one of the first things I learned when I began high school. You can't procrastinate. If you do, you'll not get the grades you're hoping to get."

Olivia's dancing helps with the stress of school. "When I'm dancing, I try not to think about everything else going on, and it relieves my stress," she said.

Know a young outstanding Western New Yorker? Tell us about your nomination, including date of birth and address, for possible publication in Class act. Sorry, photos cannot be returned. E-mail lcontinelli@

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