On February 5th 2021, Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer, spoke directly with middle schoolers during Read to Lead: Live! This student-centered webinar series gives students a front-row seat into career exploration. Students hear directly from passionate professionals across various industries and from around the country. 

As one educator puts it: “On Read to Lead: Live! my students have the opportunity to see and hear individuals who look like them, “in-person.” This allows them to connect what they’ve read, seen, or learned in class to the real world.”  – Kimberly 

Misty shared her incredible story as an artist, author, and leader with 15,000 students across the country, including the inspiring message that “everyone has it inside them to be a leader.” 

If you missed the live session, you can catch it on-demand here. After watching the live session with your class, you can use this discussion guide to spark reflection and discussion with your students. 

Here were a few of our favorite mic drop moments captured live. ????

What would you tell your 10-year-old self?

“Be patient and know that your passion, hard work, & belief in wanting a better life for yourselves and your family is enough. Love yourself and allow other people to love you.”

What does leadership mean to you?

“Leadership is really about believing in yourself and others.”

What does it mean to be a good leader?

“We all have it in us to be leaders. It’s not necessarily being the loudest person in the room. Leadership is about being fearless, about having faith in yourself and your abilities, and believing in the things that are important to you.”

Our middle schoolers sent in so many questions for Misty that we couldn’t get to them all during this one session, so she wrote her responses to some of the many unanswered questions. ✍️

How do you stay so motivated to continue training? – Tahirah

“Seeing how this generation of young people is so invested in making our world a better place is [the] motivation for me to keep striving even on the hardest of days. “

How did you balance ballet and school work? – Kaitlyn 

“Ballet actually pushed me to be better in school. The more responsibility I had, the easier it was for me to add on work. But I definitely had to make sacrifices. I wasn’t hanging out with friends during the week, and I was doing homework any free moment I had between dance classes and rehearsals.”

Do you get nervous before going on stage? And what do you do to calm those butterflies? – Cadence

“I never really got nervous as a child and only started to feel that way as a professional once I started to realize the weight of the roles I was dancing and what it meant to dance them as a Black woman. But when I do start to feel anxious or nervous, I first remind myself why I love to dance and perform. Then I dive deep into the character I’m portraying. It makes things less scary if it’s not you on the stage, but the character you are becoming during the show.”

What would you consider to be the highlight of your career? – Sophie

“I have two highlights for sure. My first NYC performance of the ballet Firebird in 2012 was the first time I saw so many black and brown people come to Lincoln Center to see a ballet. The second would be when I was promoted to Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre in 2015.” 

I am an aspiring ballerina, and I want to know how you got so good at ballet? – Katherine 

“ Twenty-five years of hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and commitment. But what’s been equally necessary and important was having support from those around me.”

When you were in middle school, how many ballet class hours did you take a week? – Ashanti 

“ I was taking two ballet classes a day, and sometimes I would take a modern dance class on those days as well. So some days it was three classes a day, and I was dancing six days a week.”

Why did you want to become a ballerina? – Hannah 

“ Because it was an escape from a lot of hardships in my life, and I loved moving, performing, and expressing myself with my body. I fell in love with classical music, as well as the history and structure of ballet.”

What’s your favorite song and why? – Bryn 

“ There is an old song by Mariah Carey called, Looking In. It has been a favorite of mine since I was about 14 years old because the lyrics resonated with me at the time. It’s about feeling different and trying to get people to understand you and why you are who you are. I felt like she wrote it just for me.” 

And that’s a wrap! Whether you caught this session live or will be watching it on-demand, we hope your students feel inspired by Misty’s story. Sign up to save your seat for the next Read to Lead: Live!

About Read to Lead

Read to Lead uses the power of game-based learning to empower middle school students to build literacy, life, and career skills. Teachers can sign up for a free account to get started!