Laura Strum-Vaitsas

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

high school: T.C. Williams High School

college: Temple University

MAJOR: Journalism

Laura's (Lora) life path of discovery began suddenly and quickly. Born 3 months premature and weighing in at just 3lbs. 5 ounces, she began exceeding the odds from birth. As a bi-racial child, raised in a female-headed single parent household, academic excellence, artistic merit and self-determination became trusted tools of success that superseded the economic disadvantages and cultural prejudices that surrounded her early academic years.

In elementary school Lora became an honor roll student, recognized for her early reading aptitude. She maintained honor roll status throughout middle school and is currently in the top 2% of her senior class. Lora is an AP scholar, a National Merit Outstanding Participant, a National Honor Society and National French Honor Society member. Active in her community, she volunteered with the Obama Campaign’s Organizing for America and is an outreach volunteer with the Alexandria Domestic Violence Shelter.

A tour de force in the pursuit of journalistic excellence, Lora is currently the News and Television Managing Editor of her school newspaper, Executive Producer and host of the school-centric cablecast, Theogony On Air and a freelance video editor for the PBS NewsHour Extra. Her broadcast experience led to the notable privilege of interviewing distinguished journalists Tavis Smiley (PBS and public radio talk-show host) and Cornel West (academic scholar, political activist) and serving as video segment producer for their "Poverty Tour 2.0” live broadcast.

These first-hand experiences with the power of journalism to serve as a platform for the exchange of ideas -- and play a deciding role in effecting social change – influenced Lora’s choice to pursue a double major of Journalism and Political Science. She is an admitted student at the University of Texas - Austin, Temple University and New York University. The key aspect of her higher education choice is finding a continued learning experience that will merge self-determination with academic excellence and further her goal of giving journalistic voice to the issues facing marginalized communities.

Underscoring academic excellence with artistic merit resonates deeply with Lora. A student of dance for more than 15 years, she acknowledges the complementary role it plays in supporting her academic successes. “Not only does dance teach me to meet and surpass mental and physical challenges, it also lets me step across cultural barriers to share experiences and build common bonds with those outside of my community.” Dance exposed Lora to a myriad of ways the art form bridges gaps that sometimes separate communities. She is deeply thankful for the teachers and mentors who shared their energy and vision in support of her dance training, especially those at The Dance Theatre of Harlem Kennedy Center Residency Program, The Ballet Studio and the Washington School of Ballet.

Precipitated by family and a diverse community of academic and artistic visionaries that gave her unwavering means of comfort and progression, Lora looks forward to using the spirit of opportunity given her to its fullest and emulating the soul of its efforts in every aspect of her life.

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