Sara DiVittorio – North Carolina Nomination and Photography by Words & Pictures by Jeannie DeSena Issue 63 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination - Sara DiVittorio strives for excellence as an athlete and student and has fun in the process. An Open Champion Irish dancer with the Walsh Kelley School in Charlotte, North Carolina, she earns high placements at regional and international competitions, and she shares her talent by performing in the community. She also enjoys playing rec soccer and basketball. This tenth-grader gets her point across as a member of the Charlotte Catholic High School debate team. Sara takes her commitments seriously but is also quick to share a laugh with her family and friends. She is truly an inspiring teen.
Photography by Words & Pictures by Jeannie DeSena
Tell us about your dance career. How did you get started and where are you at with it now? I have been dancing with the Walsh Kelley School for almost my whole life, starting when I was 3 years old and I fell in love with it. My mom and her sisters all danced growing up and my cousin danced before me, so my family already knew about the Irish dancing world. Over the years, I have climbed through the levels and am proud to say I am now ranked 9th in North America and have competed in the Irish Dancing World Championships twice now against the top 1% of all Irish Dancers around the world.
What do you love most about dance? The thing I love most about dance is the community. I have met some of my best friends through Irish dance and every dance class and competition, I'm always having fun. My dance school has become like a home to me and my dance teacher, Aine Walsh Kelley, is like my second mom. So, even when a result doesn't go my way or I'm just not having a great day, I always have the absolute best people there supporting me.
What do you think most non dancers don't realize about dancing/dancers? I think that non dancers don't understand the physical strength that dancing takes. We are not only running through our dances over and over again, but we are doing planks and squats and like a million other things that get me sore just thinking about it. Most dancers around my level are practicing almost every day for several hours and even putting extra practice, workouts, and stretches in at home, so dance is by no chance any less physically draining than any other sport.
What is a favorite accomplishment from dance? My favorite dance moment was when I placed 7th at the US Nationals. It was my first Nationals since COVID and I wasn't sure how I was going to do, but I tried my best and at awards, it paid off. The announcer called me up for the top 10 and I ran on the stage crying and hugging my friends who were up there with me. Not only was I crying hysterically, but I looked out and my mom, my teachers, and my friends were all crying too. It was one of the best days of my life.
What is an experience you've had through dance that you wouldn't gotten to have if you weren't a dancer? I have gotten to travel to so many cool places. I've traveled all over the US for competitions and last April, I got to travel to Belfast to compete in the World Championships. Coming up this July, I will compete at the Worlds in Montreal. I'm just so lucky to have been able to see such fabulous places.
How did you find and why did you choose Words & Pictures by Jeannie DeSena for your photographer? Mrs. DeSena is an Irish dance mom at another dance school in Charlotte and an incredible photographer. She reached out to my mom and I for a Christmas photoshoot because she was looking for a dancer with either a red or green dress and at the time, I had both, so it worked out perfectly.
What was your experience like? What did you love most about it? My experience with Mrs. DeSena was amazing. I had never really done a photoshoot before, so I was a little nervous, but she comforted me in no time and got me laughing and smiling during the whole thing. I loved all the little props that she had and had a great time throwing candy canes up in the air, but I might have dropped a few once or twice.
Image taken by a family member
Tell us about your soccer team. What is your favorite memory with them? I love playing soccer because it is a very low stress activity for me. With just playing in a rec league, all the pressure is off, so in general, every practice and game is incredible because I just get to go out there and do my best, all while having fun.
How long have you been playing basketball, what is your position, and what is a favorite accomplishment with the sport? I have been playing in church league basketball since I was in 3rd grade. I play point guard because I'm pretty short. My favorite thing about basketball is that my dad is my coach and I get to spend time with him. Every time we win a game, we both get to celebrate together afterwards.
What is the most interesting topic you've had for debate? What side were you on? What was your argument? I compete in the Public Forum division of Debate, so I I compete in the Public Forum division of Debate, so I compete with my partner and one of my best friends, Nadine. The cool and kind of hard thing about debate is that before you go in, you have to be ready to defend both sides of the argument. My favorite topic and the most challenging was one about cryptocurrency last year. It is incredibly confusing, but I learned a ton preparing for that case and now I sound really smart when talking about it with adults, which, to me, is one of the best parts.
Image taken by a family member
What is a tradition or special activity at your school that you love to participate in? I love all the sports events at my school, Charlotte Catholic High School. We have an absolutely amazing student section with fun themes for every game. So, on game nights, I go all out with tutus and ribbons and glitter and then go and cheer my heart out with all of my friends. It's so fun that I normally lose my voice the day after.
If you had nothing to do and all day to do it, where would we find you? I don't get much free time because I love being busy, but when I do, you can normally find me curled up on the couch in my PJs, probably watching FRIENDS. Even though I've seen it like a million times, it never fails to make me laugh.
What inspiring things about you does your nomination not cover? I think that the most inspiring thing about me is my work ethic. With whatever I’m doing, I’m always sure to put 110% into it, especially with dance. I’m in the dance studio anywhere from 3-7 days a week and it’s really a full year sport. It can be a lot, but I’m always striving to do my best dancing in every single practice.
What else would you like to talk about? I’m also a kid that loves to be on the go! I’m always doing something whether it’s dance, school, debate, or like a million other things that I pack my schedule with. My friends and family always laugh when I tell them that I want to get back to dance after taking like a 1 day break. I just love having something to do!
If you were to present a topic to a group of your peers, what would it be? Something that I’m very passionate about is the awareness of dance as a sport. A lot of people don’t understand the work and the many hours that go into dancing. They assume we just get dressed up all pretty and prance around the stage, but it’s way more than that. In the dancing world, I have personally witnessed the blood, sweat, and tears that each dancer puts into each practice and each competition, so anyone that tries to discredit dancing hasn’t really seen what dancing truly is.
Image taken by a family member
What is the hardest thing you have ever accomplished, and how did you do it? My most difficult accomplishment was qualifying for Worlds. I worked for years, trying to get my dancing good enough to hopefully find myself in one of those rare spots.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are today? My advice would be to do everything you do with 100% of your energy, even small practices or homework assignments. You're not going to do your greatest unless you put your very best effort into it.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are your plans? I hope to be in a college that I absolute love on my way to becoming an orthodontist. I'm not sure what college yet, but I'll figure that one out in a few years. What is your favorite activity or pastime that was not in your nomination? I absolutely love listening to music by Taylor Swift. She is definitely my favorite artist and I probably know every single word to every single one of her songs,
Do you have a hidden talent? What is it? I'm good at pool/billiards. We have a pool table in my house, so I'm constantly playing either with my family or alone whenever I'm bored, but over time I've gotten pretty good.
3 Things on your bucket list Three bucket list items for me are definitely visiting Greece, seeing a show on Broadway, and meeting Taylor Swift. Although, I'm not sure that last one's going to happen. Look for Sara in issue 63 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!