The sky is the limit for a Scottish actress as she prepares to jet across the pond to sample life at two of the world’s most prestigious universities.
Teenager Ellie Laird, who studies on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Junior Conservatoire Acting programme, will spend a week at Harvard and Yale universities from July 30 after beating off competition from 1,000 young people from all over the UK to take part in the Sutton Trust’s esteemed US programme.
The 17-year-old secured her place at the Junior Conservatoire through the Royal Conservatoire’s Transitions scheme, which aims to ensure that everyone with talent and potential should have access to training there regardless of their background. It was during her studies at Scotland’s national conservatoire, ranked in the world’s top three for performing arts education and celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2017, that she was made aware of the US programme – although family members took some convincing.
The South Lanarkshire teenager said: “I’m so excited to be heading to the USA this summer, it’s a really big deal.
“I would like to major in drama and directing with English and French and the trip will give me a flavour of what education is like over there. It will be interesting to compare the differences between universities in the USA and in Scotland, particularly when I’m going to Yale and Harvard.”
Mum Alison said: “I am absolutely delighted for Ellie. My husband James wasn’t too sure at first because of the distance but we both know it’s such a wonderful opportunity for her.
“She’s grateful to the staff at the Junior Conservatoire who told her about the opportunity and guided her through the process. It would be a big step for Ellie if she decides she wants to study in the USA full-time but we will support her in every way we can.”
Winning the opportunity to visit the prestigious institutions was an arduous process for Ellie, who had to go through rounds of essay writing, tests and interviews as around 1,000 hopefuls were whittled down to the final shortlist, which includes just 15 representatives from Scotland. The Hamilton Grammar pupil will spend a week living on campus and will visit a number of other universities in the area. Along with other participants, she will benefit from residential activities and receive an intensive programme of support.
The USA trip marks the latest step in what is a promising career for Ellie, who first caught the acting bug at the age of eight following a workshop at school. She joined various local drama organisations before gaining a place at the Junior Conservatoire in August last year.
Ellie explained that her studies at the Junior Conservatoire have helped her decide on her ultimate career path. She said: “I love studying there. It has affected my life so much, from the voice and movement coaching to meeting so many new people. Going to the Junior Conservatoire has showed me I can do what I really want to do and it has opened up a whole new life to me.
“I had been considering becoming an architect but the course here has made me realise how much I love acting. To know what I want to do and have that clarity is amazing.”
Jenn Adams, head of the Junior Conservatoire, said: “Many congratulations to Ellie, who has worked very hard during her time so far at the Junior Conservatoire.
“Studying at the Junior Conservatoire is about nurturing young people and empowering them to be the very best they can be in a happy and welcoming environment. Ellie has really progressed over the past year after learning from world-leading teachers and visiting artists.
“Bon voyage to Ellie as she prepares to explore the world of possibilities that await her in the USA.”
More information about the Junior Conservatoire at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is available from rcs.ac.uk/jrdrama