Meet Heather Smarick of Westmorland County: a 12-year-old figure skater, PALCS 6th grader, daughter, sister and so much more. She is a young lady whose ambition and dedication can be seen on a daily basis.

Heather has been figure skating for over nine years and has set many goals for herself in the competitive sport. She does the majority of her skating and training at the Alpha Ice Complex across the street from the PALCS Western Regional Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Heather has three coaches to train her in the skills of freestyle, ice dance and competition. Her coaches include Julie Schafer, Bob Mock, and Barb Gahagen.

Up until the middle of the 2017-2018 school year, Heather attended a brick-and-mortar public school and things were going well. However, after meeting with Heather’s coaches, the Smarick family realized that in order to reach all of Heather’s goals within this sport, she would need to double her ice time and change her daily schedule.

The Smarick family needed to find a program flexible enough to cater to Heather’s rigorous training schedule. Her father delved into hours and hours of research dedicated to finding the best academic option for his daughter. They wanted to find a program that would not only allow Heather to keep up with her training schedule, but a program that would also challenge her academically. PALCS continued to come up in the results during his search for “top testing scores,” “college readiness,” and “flexibility.”

In January 2018, they decided to officially make the switch from brick-and-mortar school and enroll Heather at PALCS. Their only concern when enrolling was that switching mid-year would make it difficult when trying to match Heather’s courses so she would stay on track. However, after working closely with Heather’s PALCS guidance counselor, they developed a challenging roster of courses that would not overwhelm her, but would ensure that she does not miss a beat academically.

Since joining the PALCS community, Heather has been able to free up time throughout the day that used to be occupied by things like traveling to and from school, changing classes, and waiting for class to get started. She can also do her schoolwork on a schedule that works for her. As a result of her new-found free and flexible time, Heather can train longer, allowing her to follow her dream.

A typical weekday for Heather starts by waking up at the same time her sister does for her public school. She then tackles her studies before heading to the rink for about three hours of ice time and lessons, followed by either a dance or a self-defense lesson. Many students Heather’s age may not be able to handle such a full, rigorous schedule while still maintaining straight A’s, but as a self-motivated and determined person, Heather enjoys staying busy. With her training, academic studies, and her skating completion/test sessions, she certainly keeps busy.

Heather figure skates in competitions fairly often during competition season, which typically takes place from October – April. Just this past season, she competed in about seven different competitions. Test sessions occur 3-4 times a year at the rink. During these test sessions, skaters perform and display their different skills in things like ice dance or moves in the field. If you pass the session, you then move up to the next level of expertise. A few PALCS representatives were lucky enough to be present for the presentation of one of Heather’s test session results at the Alpha Ice Complex, when the judges revealed that she passed on to the next level. Her excitement was apparent and well deserved.

Heather has set many skating goals for herself, like passing the gold level for ice dancing and continuing to advance in freestyle skating. Her overall goal in life, however, is to enjoy what she is doing at each moment. As Heather put it, “I love where I am at right now, being able to do all these amazing things with my family, friends, and coaches right by my side.” She is so happy to be given the opportunity to not only skate but also dance, tumble and keep up with all her other activities and ventures while having fun. When the time comes, she hopes to attend Penn State.

Congratulations to Heather for all of her success both in figure skating and academically! Also, thank you to Heather, her mother Lisa, her father Sean, and her sister Brooke for sharing their story with us! We expect wonderful things from this talented 6th grader!