WHEELING - Stefanie Lemasters knew in the seventh grade exactly what she wanted to do with her life - and she has spent every moment since working toward her dream of becoming a professional actress.
By the time she graduated from Wheeling Park High School in May, she performed in more than 20 different theater productions and placed fifth in a national competition for her speech and performing skills.
"When I got on stage I realized that it (theater) was what I was meant to do," Lemasters said, recalling the day when she was first encouraged to take the stage by Triadelphia Middle School drama teacher Lara Parsons. Lemasters said Parsons' passion for teaching and theater was profoundly inspiring for her.
Stefanie Lemasters graduated this year from Wheeling Park High School as an outstanding senior with multiple
accolades. She plans to attend Point Park Conservatory of Performing Arts in the fall and go on to become a
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
"To me, motivation comes from doing what you love," Lemasters said.
Since that day in middle school, Lemasters said her life has been a non-stop journey toward her ultimate goal of performing professionally.
In her freshman year at Wheeling Park High School, Lemasters auditioned for the speech team led by coach Bill Cornforth. By her sophomore year she was the division leader and she was a team captain her senior year. She said Cornforth was another great source of inspiration.
"He taught me almost everything I know," Lemasters said. She also mentioned Wheeling's Towngate Theatre and her supportive parents as invaluable in her teenage studies and pursuits. Her idol, she said, is Judy Garland.
Lemasters competed in the National Catholic Speech and Debate tournament in Philadelphia in May, where she faced more than 200 students from across the country. She managed to reach the final round of the national tournament, where she placed fifth in the country for her dramatic performance.
The experience of competing in the final round nationally was overwhelming, Lemasters said.
"It almost felt surreal," Lemasters told the Ohio County Board of Education at a recent meeting. "When I learned I would compete among the final six out of the original 234, I could barely stand. To be recognized for all my hard work was really a gift."
In the fall, Lemasters plans to attend Point Park University's Conservatory of Performing Arts in Pittsburgh as a theatre major. Following college, she hopes to pursue an acting career in New York, where she said there are plenty of performance areas. She would like to eventually act on Broadway.
"I was lucky to learn early on what I wanted to do with my life," Lemasters said.
She offered this advice for those young people still in their developing years who face the choices which will affect their futures: "It's easy to be passionate when you're doing something you love," Lemasters said. "Don't get sidetracked from your dreams."