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Dedicated Wisconsin dancer goes the distance to achieve dream

WHITEWATER, Wis. (CBS 58) – A Wisconsin teenager is going the distance to fuel his passion.

Every week, Whitewater native Zachary Jeppsen travels more than a thousand miles to attend an academy in Chicago that is helping him achieve his dream.

“Dancing is sort of liberating I suppose,” Jeppsen said. “It creates a level of freedom when I’m in the studio that I don’t get from anything else.”

Jeppsen lives in Whitewater but commutes every weekday and some Saturdays to The Chicago Academy for the Arts. Jeppsen is a junior at the school that focuses on academics and the arts.

Every week, he spends around 37 hours commuting.

“We leave the house at 5:30 a.m. My mother will drive me about 45 minutes to the Harvard train station and then I’ll take the train in and I’ll get to Ogilvie Station in Chicago at 8 a.m.,” he said. “From there a school bus picks me and all the other students who commuted up so we’ll get to school at about 8:20 a.m.”

Ballet instructor Patrick Simoniello was shocked when he learned about Jeppsen's commute.

“You hear, ‘oh yeah one of the boys is commuting from Whitewater, Wisconsin’ well I didn’t really know where Whitewater, Wisconsin was,” Simoniello said. “And then you hear oh it’s a three hour commute; well some of the other kids do three hour commutes. And then you hear no, it’s a three hour commute each way, every day. So here it is this six hour commute,”

Jeppsen’s days are long, after taking five hours of advanced academics classes; he spends at least three hours in the dance studio.

Most nights, he doesn’t get back to Whitewater until 9 p.m. Many may wonder why he does it, but for Jeppsen the answer is simple.

“There’s no other place that I’ve found that makes me feel the way this place does,” he said. “I want dance to be my future and this is the best place that I could find that could prepare me for that.”

After high school, Jeppsen hopes to join a ballet company and begin his professional dance career.

“He works for this,” Simoniello said. “It’s not given to him… he really works for it because he wants it.”

Until graduation next year, Jeppsen’s long commutes will continue.

“I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people alive,” Jeppsen said. “The fact that I get to come here and every day immerse myself in the world that I want to immerse myself in, it’s phenomenal.”


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