By Angela Null
If you had asked me where I see myself in twenty years two decades ago, I would have confidently responded, “dancing, teaching, or owning a studio.” I never imagined that I would attend, or furthermore graduate from a university.
Today, I am 34 years young, and if you asked me the same question my response would be, “actively engaging in public relations activities that aim to reinvigorate the arts, and/or carrying out initiatives that aim to make the world a better place one small, but meaningful, step at a time.” How does a ballerina make the transition from tutus and pointe shoes to classrooms, in addition to becoming PRWeek’s Outstanding Student 2022? That’s precisely what I am going to share with you.
Twenty years ago, I was adamant and confident that I would become a professional ballerina. At the tender age of 14, I auditioned for a prestigious Vaganova training ground in Washington, D.C., known as the Kirov Academy of Ballet, where I learned of a harsh reality. After taking measurements of my proportions and observing me in a ballet class, the director of the institution sat me down in her office. She explained that I lacked the proper training, I was miles behind other students my age, and I was considered too old to manifest my dreams into a reality. While the odds seemed to be stacked against me, in that moment she also relayed that what I lacked could, in theory, be corrected, because what I did have was a phenomenal facility with enormous potential. The director asked if I was up to the challenge and without any hesitation I replied, “absolutely.” I began that journey in the lowest level as the oldest student in my class and I ended that journey at the highest level as the youngest student in my class. Four long years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance, guided by a burning passion and an unwavering desire to manifest a dream, not only led to my success as a professional dancer, but also became the foundation for which I would confront and overcome any other obstacles that transpired no matter where life took me.
For a decade, I danced with companies including First State Ballet Theatre, the Richmond Ballet, the Washington Ballet, and the Sarasota Ballet of Florida. Within these companies, I performed leading roles such as Kitri in Don Quixote, both the Black and White Swan in Swan Lake, Swanhilda in Coppelia, a Russian Girl in Serenade, a soloist role in Raymonda, amongst others. My career was nothing short of amazing, but I was overcome with this overwhelming feeling that I was destined to do so much more. I met a man whom I am lucky enough to call my husband in 2015. He was preparing to graduate from dental school in the spring 2016 and would begin his active-duty military service in the U.S. Army that coming summer. He proposed, we eloped, and I gracefully retired from my decade long career.
It didn’t take long for me to begin applying to colleges. I applied to three and was admitted to one. The University of Florida’s Online Learning Program was willing to take a chance on me; an individual that had not stepped foot in a classroom in a decade. I will admit that the first year of schooling was difficult for me. Not only was I newly married and adjusting to being in front of a computer screen instead of active in a studio every day, but I had left my family, colleagues, and friends behind. However, I did what I do best. I set my emotions aside and I focused on a new ambition. To graduate from UF Online with the highest of honors.
After taking a couple of business classes a few semesters into my studies, I discovered through my professor’s feedback that I had a talent for writing, so I began researching other areas of the college. I zeroed in on the College of Journalism and Communications (CJC), where I discovered public relations. After extensive research, I decided to switch majors. I have been fortunate enough to learn from and be challenged by some of the industry’s leading professionals including Dr. Tina McCorkindale, Vanessa Wakeman, Rob Engle, Bob Hughes, Liudmila Khalitova, amongst others. These individuals are incredible educators. Not only do they dedicate their precious time to passing on their extensive knowledge, but they do so with enthusiasm and with the intention of seeing every student succeed.
Professor Wakeman’s Competitive Reporting class provided UF students with the opportunity to enter PRWeek’s Outstanding Student Award competition. The prompt was to create a global campaign that aimed to increase viewership of NBC’s 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China while addressing human rights, reputation and crisis issues, systemic drug use, and mental health amongst athletes. My immediate reaction to the prompt was, “we have to accomplish this in six pages?” To which UFCJC’s newly appointed Associate Dean for Research, Dr. Marcia DiStaso, amenably replied, “yes.” Once again, I was presented with a dauting challenge. A challenge that I fearlessly accepted.
On March 16, 2022, Haymarket Media generously paid for my travel expenses to attend the PRWeek Awards at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. I had traveled to the Big Apple a handful of times to see the sites as a tourist and to audition for a number of ballet companies, but never for anything of this magnitude. It was magical to be surrounded by top industry professionals from an assortment of outstanding agencies. But perhaps even more exciting was the moment Maureen Lippe, Founder and Chairman of Lippe Taylor, announced that I had won PRWeek’s 2022 Outstanding Student Award. I have performed on stages for audiences of thousands across the nation, I have also won a gold medal at a national youth ballet competition, but never before have I been the recipient of an award quite like this.
This year has been nothing short of incredible. I am honored to be named as PRWeek’s Outstanding Student 2022. I am proud to graduate from UF’s CJC with the highest of honors and with my B.S. in Public Relations. I am excited to embark on my journey as a student within Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, where I will obtain my master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. I am elated to have been promoted from Intern to Account Coordinator within Hemsworth Communications. I am eager to see where life takes me next.
I think it’s important to tell our stories. I know that I’ve learned a number of things from my own. I’ve learned that pursuing colossal trials and overcoming obstacles is incredibly taxing and requires an enormous amount of passion, dedication, and perseverance. I’ve also learned that while failure can be painful and bruise your ego in the short-term, if at first you don’t succeed there will always be another opportunity to prevail. I’ve learned that if you desire to achieve something, you shouldn’t allow anything or anyone to hold you back.
The moral of the story is to, above all else, believe in yourself. You are your biggest cheerleader, and you can do anything you set your mind to. My only suggestion is to guide yourself using the following three principles: First, put in the hard work. Second, dedicate yourself to your passion. Third, hold onto the idea that if at first you don’t succeed, there will be another opportunity for a well-deserved victory.