Student inspires through dance, leadership, academics


Hawaii students in both public and private schools take the ACT college-entrance exam early in the school year. A perfect score is 36. And that’s exactly what Kalani High senior Jacob Ly achieved — all while balancing a 4.0 GPA, student activities and being one of the state’s top young dancers trained in classical ballet.

Jacob Ly

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jacob Ly


“Ballet has helped instill the concept of dedication and focus into me and this carries over to academics,” says Jacob. “These traits have played huge roles as I strive to be a successful student.”

Jacob was six years old when his mother began enrolling him in a variety of dance classes. He took jazz, tap and ballet lessons, but says ballet was the one that stuck for him. He knew he was in love with the craft. Eleven years later, Jacob’s talent is recognized across the islands and he’s opening eyes on the mainland as well. In December 2013, Jacob had a dual role as the nephew and the Nutcracker Prince in Ballet Hawaii’s “The Nutcracker.” He is once again in this year’s production as Russian Trepak. Over the summer, he received the opportunity of a lifetime to study at the prestigious San Francisco Ballet School. Jacob says the entire experience was one of the best of his life thus far.

“The San Francisco Ballet had amazing facilities, studios and world-renowned teachers,” he recalls. “They also split up their classes by level and gender, which gave me a great opportunity to work with male teachers alongside other male dancers – something that is not readily found here in Hawaii.”

Jacob also spent five weeks studying in New York City with the American Ballet Theatre, whose teachers helped him develop his technique.

“The one thing I like best about ballet is that it requires enormous precision and control,” he adds. “This continuously gives me goals to work towards. Classical ballet has very well defined lines of correct and incorrect, and I feel that working to perfect my technique within these lines is what drives me to continue.”

Equally impressive are Jacob’s talents at Kalani High. He has served as a class officer since his sophomore year, and is currently vice president for his class. He has been a member of Kalani’s Math League, National Honor Society and Mock Trial teams, and is currently enrolled in Orchestra 4 playing the viola, an instrument he has played since fifth grade.

Kalani High Principal Mitchell Otani says students like Jacob, although rare, are increasing among the public school ranks. Before enrolling at Kalani, he studied at Wilson Elementary and Kaimuki Middle. He has his sights set on college, and hopes to attend Claremont McKenna, University of Chicago or NYU next year.

“Many schools today take that extra step to support our young people in their goals and aspirations, especially when they are outside of the classroom,” says Otani.

Jacob agrees, and says Otani and the Kalani administration have been extremely supportive of his aspirations, even pointing out that he was touched when a Kalani vice principal attended one of his shows.

“With our college counselor, I was able to set solid goals in terms of which schools I’d like to attend, what I need to work on in terms of standardized testing, and how I can create an impressive college application,” says Jacob. “Almost every person on Kalani’s staff has pushed the message that students can truly work towards attending any college they want, and support like this has been crucial.”

Jacob adds: “Mr. Otani himself has been really supportive as well! When I was faced with the decision of possibly moving to attend the San Francisco Ballet School year round, he told me he would support whichever decision I made and regardless, would be glad to shake my hand on the day of graduation. It was situations like this that confirmed with me staying in Hawaii and at Kalani was the right decision.”

Contact Information

Communications & Community Affairs Office

Phone: 808-586-3232


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