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WNY student heads to college early

Most teenagers have dreams they hope to reach someday, but few teens actually put in the effort to accomplish them. Francesca Surace, an 18-year-old from Lockport, is a teen that appears to be on the road to success.

Francesca has started college early at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in the Upper West Side of New York City near Lincoln Center. Starting with an audition in October 2013, she was accepted to AMDA with an academic achievement talent scholarship.

But Francesca was not handed this opportunity; she has been working for it since she was 7 years old. She has taken numerous voice lessons with many teachers for the past eight years and dance classes since she was 2 years old. When she was in middle school at DeSales Catholic School in Lockport, she began acting and performing in school plays. She also spent the majority of her summers attending theater camps and workshops. With the help and support of her family, she did whatever it took to be properly trained and prepared for this opportunity despite the cost and time-consuming efforts.

Francesca says she is especially thankful for this opportunity because of her background. Francesca was adopted as an infant from an orphanage, FANA, in Bogota, Colombia. Since then, she has returned to Colombia to visit seven times and has been inspired by the music there.

“I truly believe I am here for a purpose and couldn’t be more thankful for the life I have,” she said.

Along with inspiration from Colombia, Francesca also finds it in country music. She recalls listening to Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks and Billy Ray Cyrus on the car radio while driving with her dad.

And, she said, she will never forget watching her cousin, Anna Lynn Surace, sing at church. She loved her cousin’s performance, but the audience’s reaction was what inspired her. It was in this moment, she said, that she realized “music tells stories that relate messages to people better than words can.”

Francesca is both a little nervous and excited about her future. She graduated early from Sacred Heart Academy in February and began classes at the AMDA later that month. She’s in a big city surrounded by all new things and away from the people she knows and loves. But she is following her dreams and pursuing what she has always wanted to do.

After orientation, she had to take a placement performance test to determine the rigor of classes. Now her schedule is full of acting, diction, stage combat, voice lessons and more.

Most importantly, Francesca said she hopes “to immerse myself in the music in the city that can inspire me to do so.”

She said she wants to discover more of her musical abilities. Further down the road, she said she wants to perform in theater or on the screen and “be a voice for people.”

Francesca encourages teens to never give up.

“If it scares you, do it,” she said.

She added that she has realized that “serving others with the gifts God has given you” is what has gotten her so far in life.

“Always remember your roots and that the people who surrounded you on your journey are the reason you are who you are,” she said.

Francesca said she is grateful to her family and friends who have helped her get to where she is today and wishes all teenagers the best “because we all have dreams; let’s choose them!”

Hollie Gfroerer is a junior at Sacred Heart Academy.