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SLO County ballerinas earn $2,500 scholarships to dance in Chicago and N.Y.

Gemma Campbell, center, was awarded the Jennifer Thoma Memorial Ballet Scholarship in the amount of $2,500.
Gemma Campbell, center, was awarded the Jennifer Thoma Memorial Ballet Scholarship in the amount of $2,500.

San Luis Obispo

The Jennifer Thoma Memorial Ballet Scholarship, via The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County, has announced this year’s recipients: Gemma Campbell, 17, and Kassandra Lessi, 16. Usually there is just one recipient, but applicants this year “were of such high caliber that the scholarship committee decided to award two scholarships,” according to a news release.

The $2,500 scholarships will provide support for the two dancers to attend summer intensive ballet training programs.

Gemma Campbell of San Luis Obispo trains at Ballet Theatre of San Luis Obispo and was recommended by Theresa Slobodnik. “Gemma has become a consummate performer, acclaimed as well beyond her 17 years,” Slobodnik said. The scholarship will allow Campbell to attend the Joffrey Academy of Dance Summer Intensive in Chicago.

Kassandra Lessi of Templeton has studied dance at SLO Movement Arts Center and performed in such productions as “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Carnival of the Animals” and “Arrival.” Owner/Director Ryan Lawrence cited that Lessi’s “success is due to not only to her ample talent but ‘primarily to her determination and drive, her grit,’” according to the news release. Lessi will be attending the Ellison Ballet summer program in New York.

Kassandra Lessi_Thoma ballet scholarship_0405
Kassandra Lessi, left, was awarded the Jennifer Thoma Memorial Ballet Scholarship in the amount of $2,500. Courtesy photo

The scholarship is named after Jennifer Thoma, a longtime San Luis Obispo resident who died from cancer in 2012. After her death, her husband, Bill Thoma of Thoma Electric, and their two children, Jeff and Jessica, established the scholarship in Jennifer’s name to honor her passion for dance.

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