Gabriella Morando - Ohio Interview by Claire Path Nomination by Elisabeth Morando Photography by David Beckham Photography Issue 24 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
The Nomination: Gabi is inspiring because she is incredibly dedicated to and passionate about the things that are important to her. She has studied classical ballet for 12 years and devotes up to 20 hours per week to dance, striving for excellence and perfection despite exhaustion and pain from injuries. Ballet has taught her the necessity of practicing something over and over again in order to achieve every bit of progress, something that requires so much patience and focus. She applies the same qualities to metal sculpting and jewelry-making, for which she has won statewide awards. Gabi is an honors student with a 4.4 GPA and a flexible school schedule so she can work to advance her community service projects, too, like her volunteer work for the Ronald McDonald House and human trafficking charities like her own initiative, Prevent-Prepare-Stay Aware, and she has reached thousands of elementary students with her anti-bullying pro-kindness message. Gabi is currently Miss Ohio High School.
How has your passion for classical ballet impacted your daily life, and what do you love most about dancing? Ballet touches everything I do because studying this art has had such a huge impact on who I am. Classical ballet has taught me discipline, patience, appreciation for my mind and body, and it has given me a strong work ethic. Ballet is so focused on perfecting the smallest of moves that it has taught me the necessity of practicing something again and again in order to make incremental improvements. I understand nutrition and injury prevention and care because of ballet, and I have learned to love classical music and the beautiful stories that dancers tell without words. My favorite thing, though, is performing. So many hours go into preparing for just a few minutes on stage, but the feeling I get from performing is like none other, and it’s always worth it.
When did you first start pageantry, and what is one of your favorite experiences from it? I started pageants at age 9. Since then, pageantry has truly been the most amazing journey, and I’m so thankful to be able to do it. One of the best things about it is being able speak with kids and hear their experiences. Just last winter, I made one little girl’s dearest Christmas wish come true. My first ballet teacher told me about a young student dreaming of being a pageant princess with a beautiful dress and crown, but her family couldn’t do that for her. I was blessed to be able to surprise her with a perfect ballgown and tiara, and we had a photo shoot to commemorate the day. It was something I’ll never forget.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are your plans for the future? My dream and my goal is that in 5 years I will be dancing professionally in a classical ballet company, and I will be serving on the board of a significant anti-human trafficking non-profit, helping make changes in legislation and social programs to help victims. And I will be Miss Universe!
What do you love most about volunteering to help others in need? Volunteering is something I have grown up doing. I still remember visiting and helping to serve meals with my mom at homeless shelters when I was only 4 years old. I love being able to serve other people, and the feeling I get from doing that is so magical. I feel blessed that I have had role models in my life who have taught me the importance of giving back and helping others who are not as fortunate.
How has your involvement in your community impacted who you are and what you stand up for? Community service has given me a certain perspective on life that I don’t think I would have if I only looked to my own needs. Seeing what other people go through makes me appreciate what I have so much more, and it reminds me to take nothing for granted. Helping others has done so much good for me, and I’m so grateful to all the organizations I’ve worked with for giving me a chance to make a difference.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are today? Don’t be afraid to go after what you want! It’s so easy to let fear stop you from trying things because, frankly, trying something new is scary. But if you face your fear and go ahead and try, you will always find that what you’re afraid of isn’t so scary after all.
How do you keep yourself organized with everything you have on your plate? Time management is a real challenge but I’m really lucky that my school was just starting an online curriculum when I was an entering freshman, and they agreed to let me be the first student to try a blended schedule of some online classes and some in-school classes. So I get to use school labs and facilities for science and art, for instance, but I have the flexibility of online classes that I can do whenever and wherever I am. I like to work ahead as much as I can when I have time, too, so I can focus on dance more when I need to or do my community service projects.
Image by Elisabeth Morando
What do you enjoy most about jewelry making and what awards have you won from it? I love how jewelry making is so detail-oriented. It takes so long to make the smallest chain link or a single engraving, but the work put in shows in the final product. I have won gold and silver keys in the Scholastic Art Competition, was a finalist in the Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition, and I was the one student chosen to represent my congressional district in the Ohio House of Representatives Student Art Exhibition that will remain on display for this entire year.
What about you inspires others/why do you think you are inspiring? If I inspire others, I hope it’s because they can relate to me and the struggles I have had and hard work I have to do to reach for my dreams. When I was little, my shyness made me quit ballet after my first class because I couldn’t stand people looking at me. That shyness is still there inside me, and it’s a constant effort for me to fight it. But the effort has made me strong enough to be able to continually face my fear and perform onstage, speak in front of crowds, and put myself out there to be judged by pageant judges and everyone else who is watching. If I can do that, believe me — anyone can do it.
Who do you find inspiring? I get inspiration from many sources, including some famous people like my favorite, Audrey Hepburn. But mainly I’m inspired every day by the people I’m surrounded by—people at school who work so hard to get amazing grades, the girls I dance with who never give up even when it’s painful and difficult, my family and friends who believe in me and support me no matter what.
Image by Elisabeth Morando
Anything else you’d like to tell us? I’m so honored to be featured in Inspiring Teens magazine. I know I have had the benefit of being inspired by many amazing people, and the possibility that I can provide inspiration for someone else is wonderful and humbling. I’m very grateful.
Gabriella will be featured in Issue 24 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!