Emily Allen has been determined to do anything she attempts to "the best of my ability" for as long as she can remember, she said, and her involvement with dance "is a big part of that."
"I wouldn't be able to dream in my life the way I do without dance and the discipline it instills," said Allen, who was president of the Southeast Whitfield High School class of 2020. "I believe my dance community enabled many of my accomplishments."
Dance requires "courage and creativity, and if you want something in dance, it's not given to you," Allen said. "You have to work for it."
In dance, "you strive for perfection, but you're never there," she added. "I love to learn, and when I feel it has a purpose, I go all-in, because that's how you reap the benefits."
Allen, a 2020 Georgia Scholar, AP (Advanced Placement) scholar, National Honor Society member and president of Southeast's DECA chapter, began dancing at age 3 and "grew to love the art form," she said. Highlights have included attending the Governor's Honors Program after her sophomore year, when "we did a dance we had to create and perform all on our own," and Ballet Austin in the capital of Texas, where "I learned a lot about the world."
She spent several years helping teach 3-year-old dancers at her studio, the Dance Theatre of Dalton, and "they'd bring me back to Earth a bit when I was stressed about school," she said. Additionally, "I'm very passionate about dance, and to give them that energy was really fulfilling."
Allen received this year's Sharon Merritt Senior Scholarship, given to a senior dancer of the Dalton Dance Company who has shown exceptional commitment and generosity in her dance career, from the Dalton Arts Project.
She had more than 500 volunteer hours during her six years as a company member, and participated in numerous extracurricular dance activities, including summer dance camps and working with other students throughout the year, according to Berrien Long, director and owner of the Dance Theatre of Dalton.
"The scholarship honors Sharon Merritt, a founder and board member of Dalton Arts Project, who has been an avid volunteer and generous supporter of dance in Dalton for over 35 years, (and) this year’s recipient truly embodies her volunteerism and passion for dance," Long said.
At the dance studio, Allen and her fellow dancers created "a family, (and) it's like my second home," she said. "I have spent so much of my high school life at the Dance Theatre of Dalton that it would be wrong not to give it the recognition it deserves."