Meet Junior Caroline Hendrickson: An Aspiring Dancer and Novelist at Dwight Global

Caroline Hendrickson, a junior at Dwight Global, loves writing and dancing and is pursuing both fields professionally. Her online classes give her time for ballet while Dwight’s devoted teachers and literary clubs are helping her develop into a novelist.

An avid reader, Caroline founded two book clubs at School: the Classics Book Club, where students read novels by Austen, Fitzgerald, Wilde, and other major writers; and the Global Cultures Book Club, which focuses on contemporary books by international writers such Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. The clubs meet once a month and give students the chance to read and discuss books for pleasure; members live all around the world — Ukraine, South Africa, South America — and their different backgrounds foster an international understanding.

“The discussions can become heated because we’re all so passionate about the material, but we really learn from each other,” says Caroline, who is from Stamford, CT. “There’s this unique experience that’s created from the different perspectives in the club and from each individual’s spark of genius.”

Discovering classic literature

Caroline’s literary spark was ignited early. In elementary school, she discovered young-adult fantasy books, especially Harry Potter, and was hooked. She recalls the time in fifth grade when instead of listening to her science teacher, she was furtively reading The Order of the Phoenix. Her teacher asked Caroline a question, received no response, so asked again. Still no response.

“Finally,” Caroline recalls, “the teacher walked over to my desk and said, ‘Caroline, I don’t think you are going to find the answer in Harry Potter’ and plucked the book from my hands.” After devouring the Harry Potter series, she turned to more sophisticated books. In seventh grade, a teacher suggested she read Rebecca, a gothic novel by Daphne du Maurier. The book was battered and dog-eared, but in Caroline’s eyes it was a novel that had given hands-on pleasure to hundreds of readers. She started it and didn’t put it down until the end. “The novel sent me into a spiral of reading literature,” Caroline says. She eventually moved onto classic writers like Wilde, Austen, and Dickens; and loves deep characters such as Austen’s Emma and Dickens’s Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities

“The authors are dust but live on in their books,” says Caroline. “You think you are alone with your problems, then you read a classic and see that people who lived hundreds of years ago had the same problems. Great literature is universal.”

Caroline also writes nonfiction and has been a perennial winner of Dwight Global’s Camerer Essay contests; this month, she won the Camerer global competition for her essay, “Fix the Outside, Shatter the Inside,” which explores the psychological struggles of a high-achieving girl. She previously wrote essays about her passion for writing, her brother’s career in the navy, and the joys of dancing for New York City Ballet.

Passion for dance

Caroline is devoted to dance and has trained with top-tier ballet companies, including the Boston Ballet; this summer, she’s moving to Washington, D.C., to study at the Washington School of Ballet, where she’s part of the professional training division. Dwight Global's flexible scheduling allows her the freedom to move around the country to train for dance.

In addition to essay contests and book clubs, Dwight Global has provided Caroline with myriad opportunities to enhance her writing: she’s a teacher’s assistant and tutor for English classes, head of the Creative Writing Club, and a blogger for “Dwight Daily.” But nothing compares, she says, to the dedication of Dwight Global’s faculty, including the teacher who has had the biggest influence on her:  Angela Rice, AP Literature teacher. Along with being a great teacher, Ms. Rice is helping Caroline edit a novel she’s writing. Entitled “Crown’s Flame,” it’s in the tradition of Arthurian legend, but the main character is a woman. Ms. Rice lent Caroline her college textbooks on Arthurian legends written in Middle English, which she’s reading to help master antiquated dialects.

“Ms. Rice has had the biggest impact on me as a person and a writer,” says Caroline. “She’s helped me grow immensely as a writer, and even inspired me to study literature in college.”

Ms. Rice, in turn, says she is humbled by Caroline’s praise and loves having such a diligent student.

“Caroline has passion for the subject matter and a thirst for learning,” Ms. Rice says. “When you excel at everything like she does, it’s hard to decide what to do with your life. She wants to live with books and people who love books, so I helped her come to her own conclusion that literature is the life for her.”

A love of character

What Caroline loves about ballet is what she also loves about literature: the characters. “It’s thrilling for me, for example, to slip into the role of Kitri in ‘Don Quixote.’ I love bringing a character to life through dance and movement. Like all art, it comes from within. From the moment I take the stage, I’m no longer Caroline. I’m Kitri.”

Caroline sees dance and literature as two sides of the same artistic undertaking, both revolving around character and art, emotion and feeling, which she knows she’ll devote her life to — one way or the other. And in the end, she’s grateful to Dwight Global for giving her the flexibility and support she needs to pursue both writing and ballet professionally.

“Over the past four years, Dwight Global has become my family, with its incredible teachers, unlimited opportunities, and its inextinguishable spark for learning,” she says. “I’m just massively grateful to be a student here.”

Caroline discusses more about what she loves about Dwight Global here.