Elayna Melching - Missouri Nomination & Photography by Rita Jana Photography Issue 55 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination: Elayna was awarded the school’s Virtue of Kindness Award twice by her peers. Then, her dance studio presented her their Kindness Award two years in a row. This was the first time any student won two consecutive years. Elayna dances 4-5 days a week and continues to maintain a strong academic record, make food for the poor, and clean her church for the holidays. It’s no surprise that Elayna is described by her teachers as “supportive of her friends and teammates.” It was an honor to photograph Elayna and submit her for Inspiring Teens Magazine.
What would you most like to be interviewed about? I would like to be interviewed on my passion and love for dance. While dance is my main sport, I have also played soccer, basketball, swimming, and participated in Girls on the Run. Through dance and sports, I have learned (or gained) confidence, leadership, and what it means to be a teammate. Managing my time and energy are also skills that dance has taught me. I am coachable and have learned how to embrace feedback. With feedback comes growth. These are all important attributes to carry with me in life.
Let’s start with dance. I started dancing when I was 5 years old in kindergarten. I decided to start dancing since a friend, who also was named Elayna, started dancing for Renee Johnsons. I always did the same thing as her, so I joined the studio except I did regular classes, and she did the competition team. Eventually I quit gymnastics and started playing basketball and soccer along with dance. Then in 2nd grade, I joined the performance team because I wanted to get more serious with dance. The following year I joined the competition dance team and that is where I am today.
How did you find and why did you choose Rita Jana Photography for your photographer? What was your experience like? What did you love most about it? Rita Ann asked my mother if I was willing to model a little bit one day, so I accepted. I had never met her before since my mom and Rita Ann knew each other through my brother's school. My experience was amazing! I did my hair and makeup and then went to an art wall. The art wall was beautiful! To take the photo, she had to go in the street and stop the cars and it was very funny. I loved the most that I got to come up with poses and do things I was comfortable with.
What do you love about dance and where do you find your drive even on hard days? The thing I love most about dance is the community and diversity I have with what I do. Every day there is something new to learn, perform, or make up. Dance is my stress reliever, a place that I feel comfortable doing and being at. I find my drive by knowing the outcome by feeling an accomplishment after a long day of dance. I also know that people depend on me and so even on hard days I know why I need to go.
What are your favorite dances to study, and what was your most memorable dance? My favorite type of dance is either contemporary or jazz. I love contemporary because it has quirky moves and many dynamics in it. I do really love jazz though too. Sassy or funky jazz is probably the most fun to perform because of how high the energy is. My most memorable dance is You Got the Look. It was a quirky jazz dance to a song no one could forget. It was like a ray of sunshine hit everyone when they heard the song. I loved it!
What was your favorite dance competition and why? My favorite dance competition would probably be my most recent competition. Our whole studio had the dressing room to ourselves, and we had breaks to hang out. Nothing was too crammed together, and everyone was proud of what we accomplished. Also, it had a concession stand which I know shouldn't be a reason, but it sold Dip'n Dots! It lasted from Friday to Sunday, and everyone had a great time!
What is the hardest part about dance, and what is the easiest? The hardest part about dance isn't actually the dancing itself but it is the commitment. Hours and hours are spent competing, practicing, and memorizing while others are having sleepovers or parties. Friends don't understand why I can't skip dance because they don't dance! The easiest thing about dance is I always have a good time and a group of people supporting me. including teachers!
Image taken by Jessica Melching
What is a favorite accomplishment in one of your sports? My favorite accomplishment in soccer is scoring the last goal on my CYC team ever! That one goal really meant a lot and ended my sports season with a bang! It was the first goal I scored that season since I missed a lot of games. I also never said I was good at soccer because I always did it just for the fun of it. I will never play any sports with the people I have known since I was 3 and that accomplishment will always be stuck in my head forever.
How did you get involved in Girls on the Run and what was a favorite memory? I actually don't remember how I got involved on Girls on the Run. I think my mom just signed me up one day because the school needed people to do it and it was a good learning experience. My favorite memory are the chats we had while running and after running playing on the playground. We never were allowed on the playground, so I remember we were thrilled to be "breaking the rules." The snacks we got before running were delicious even though they were healthy!
Image taken by Jessica Melching
Tell us about the Virtue of Kindness Award and what it means to you. The Virtue of Kindness Award meant a lot to me. The teachers I believe would seek for children who demonstrated kindness the most and it meant a lot that I was chosen a few times. The whole school would wait for the day in church to see who was chosen and to be chosen felt like you won the lottery. I always tried to be helpful, and kid and I loved that it paid off in the end. Even when I did not receive the award, knew kindness shouldn't have an award since everyone should already be doing it.
Share with us your experiences making food for the poor. When and how did you get started with this service and what kinds of food do you make? I helped my mom out by making homemade macaroni and cheese for a soup kitchen back in summer. I got started because my mom was busy and needed help, so I offered to help since I know the recipe. I am not the best cook, but macaroni is easy because it is just cheese, seasoning, noodles, and milk. Doing things for the poor makes me feel good inside that I have helped someone in need.
What inspiring things about you does your nomination not cover? One of my core values are relationships. While I am a sweet, generous and kind person, I am confident and not afraid to speak up when things seem unjust. I care deeply about the way people are treated and want everyone to get a fair chance. I have stood up to bully's that were being unkind to a classmate. I have declined hearing a secret in which I was told to keep from other friends. I am a loyal friend who will not compromise my values to "go along with the crowd".
Image taken by Jessica Melching
What do you and your friends like to do in your down time? We like to hang out and talk about anything teenage girls would talk about. My friends and I get together and make Tik Toks and watch movies. We like to go outside on walks or play childhood games such as Mario cart and hide and seek. At school we play BuzzFeed quizzes and gartic phone which are online games. On our down time at home, we text and snapchat each other to stay in touch!
If you were to present a topic to a group of your peers, what would it be? I would talk about my Catholic school's dress codes and how it needs to be changed. Girls have no clothes in the summertime that is "appropriate" on dress down days. Stores make it hard for girls to find clothes that fit into the rules. I feel passionate about this topic because the boys' dress code lets them wear normal clothes while us girls struggle, and clothing stores and designers don't market to modesty.
What would your ideal summer outfit be for this situation and how would you get it passed for all catholic girls?
My ideal summer outfit is shorts or jean shorts with a tank top. Though at school, I would have to risk wearing shorts that could give me a yellow slip since I don't have any long shorts and a t-shirt. The principal would never change the rules because it has been brought up several times but if I could, I would talk to him and explain our situation. Stating tank tops should be allowed as long as not too much chest was shown and shorts were allowed to be worn.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are today? I would say no one can define who you are besides yourself and to never give up.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are your plans? In five years, I will be finishing my first year at college hopefully either in a engineering or business degree. I also hope I still have some of my friends right now.
3 Things on your bucket list Travel to Italy Have a job that I will love Live for a month on a yacht
Is there anything else you would like to tell us? I would like to tell you I am grateful for this opportunity and am glad to have answered these questions for you!
Look for Elayna in issue 55 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!