After facing adversity from the moment he was born, a Midlands teen found his passion, stuck with it and it paid off!
Robert Mason is on his way to Juilliard in New York City this fall, one of the most prestigious performing arts programs in the country. He sat down with WIS-TV to share more about his about his journey to Juilliard.
"I just like the feeling of being free," Mason said, describing his passion for dancing.
His future as a dancer looks promising, though his life started out looking anything but.
"When I was born, my mother, she left me in the hospital when I was a baby and I got put into foster care," Mason said.
His grandmother took him in when he was three-months-old while living in Broxton, NY. She later moved the family to South Carolina.
It was at age nine, Mason says, that he discovered the world of dance, inspired by dancers he watched as a child.
"I was like, 'wow, I want to do that!" Mason said.
Still, he had his challenges.
"I got taken out because my grades started slipping," Mason said.
Not only did he improve his grades, he was accepted to the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville.
He says it was there that a mentor encouraged him to aim even higher.
"I feel like you would be a very great candidate to audition for Juilliard,'" Mason said. "And I was like 'she just said that to me, okay.' Juilliard is a very hard school to get into."
Mason says he took his dance instructor's advice.
"I went to the gym about three to four times a week on top of having academics to do, rehearsals, and all these other things and homework and it all paid off. Coming from when I was born, going through all these situations in my life, being brought down and then being lifted back up it's…" His own achievements leave Mason speechless.
The high school senior found out at the end of April that he'd been accepted to Juilliard. He'll start the four-year program this fall.
After that, he hopes to audition for a dance company in New York City or L.A.
Mason has set up a GoFundMe account to help with his college expenses if people wish to donate.