Teen Turns Bullying Nightmare Into Broadway Dreams

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SACRAMENTO- A Sacramento teenager who left school due to bullying is now thriving and starring in an iconic musical.

In just two week 16-year-old Karissa Carleton opens in a youth production of Cinderella at the Hiram Johnson High School Auditorium. This is no school play though. There are no class plays for Karissa. Just like there are no school clubs, or sports, or dances. That’s the social life she had to trade when her parents made the tough choice to home school her.

Karissa went to traditional school until she was eight. But her fourth-grade year was plagued by bullying.

Her mother Katrina remembers finding notes in Karissa’s backpack detailing, where the little girl had written down the mean things classmates did to her.

The bullying also may have been the best thing that happened to Karissa. California Virtual Academy’s new online school allowed her the freedom to spend about four hours a day studying academics and the rest of the time studying her craft with voice, piano, dance and guitar lessons.

Karissa hopes those skills will propel her to performing arts college in New York and then to Broadway. The performer has had a number of starring roles in the past, but as she plays Cinderella, another young woman who survived being picked on, she pauses for a moment to reflect on how far she’s come.

‘It’s made me stronger in a way I wasn’t aware of back then but I definitely feel like now it’s changed my perspective in a lot of things in my life,” said Karissa.

The Rivercity Theater Company’s production of Cinderella opens November 4.

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