Finding Balance

Savannah WaszczukAccess Launch, Success Stories

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Warrensburg High School junior Alexis Jeffrey is a two-time USAG Junior Olympics Champion and an Elite-level gymnast. Read on to learn how the UCLA-bound athlete balances a life of competitions and coursework with the help of Launch’s online classes.

Alexis Jeffrey flashes a smile and adjusts her long, sandy blonde hair so it falls symmetrically on either side of her face. She’s dressed in black skinny jeans and a form-fitting tee that reads “USA,” posing for photographs as she stands in the halls of Warrensburg High School. A 16-year-old in her junior year, Alexis appears comfortable and confident—definitely no stranger to the spotlight—as she continues sharing her story with the Launch team between snapshots.

“This is one of the biggest ones I have,” Alexis says of the trophy that’s standing waist-high at her side. She goes on to share that she was awarded this trophy after placing fourth overall at the USAG (USA Gymnastics) Junior Olympics a couple years back. “Those are just a few of my medals, though,” Alexis says, pointing to the ribbon-adorned discs draping the toddler-height trophy. “I have a lot more medals at home. Over 300.”

These trophies and medals are tokens of accomplishment for Alexis, who has been a competitive gymnast since the third grade. Alexis has spent hundreds—if not thousands—of hours training and competing, and today she holds two USAG Junior Olympics titles and regularly competes as a U.S. Elite Gymnast. All while continuing to be an all-star student. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without Launch,” Alexis says.

A Lifelong Passion

Alexis has been involved in gymnastics since she was 3 years old. Her parents started her young, providing her with a chance to work out a bit of energy by tumbling and toe-touching along with a sea of other toddlers. But as Alexis grew, so did her passion for the sport. “When I was younger I was involved in several activities,” Alexis says. “But I really liked gymnastics the most. When I was in third grade, I told my mom that I wanted to train to be in the Olympics.”

Her mother got busy researching. She found a top-notch gymnastics training gym in Blue Springs called GAGE (Great American Gymnastics Express) Center. While GAGE was close to an hour’s drive from the family’s home, her mother enrolled her, eager to help her daughter pursue her dream. “When I started training in third grade, I would go to the gym six days a week,” Alexis says. “My mom or dad would have to drive me to the gym every day, and then drive me home. I was training around four hours a day at that time.”

This new training schedule required Alexis to leave school early, and she became responsible for making up the work she missed. But it proved to be worth the extra effort. “I started training, and at first I wasn’t very good,” Alexis says. “But my coaches realized that I had the capability to make it to the Elite level.” It wasn’t long before Alexis found herself competing in the Junior Olympics. “In the eighth grade I placed 10th overall at Nationals,” Alexis says. “I was happy, but I knew that I had to place in the top 3 to go Elite.” Two years and hundreds of sweaty, determined hours later, she placed first at Nationals and reached her goal of becoming an Elite-level gymnast.

Competing at the Elite level has given Alexis an even deeper love for gymnastics. When asked about the most memorable moments in her career so far, she’s quick to reference an Elite-level meet. “I’ll never forget the moment when I stuck my landing at Nationals,” Alexis says. Her face brightens with excitement. “The whole crowd went crazy,” she says.“ Competing at the Elite level is just so different. There’s so much noise and so much energy. I love it.” Other Elite-level highlights include being in the company of Olympic athletes. “My favorite gymnast growing up was Shawn Johnson,” Alexis says. “When I first saw her compete I thought, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ Well, a couple years ago I got to meet her at an Elite meet.”

A Day in the Life

Today Alexis continues training at GAGE, but now she’s able to drive herself to her workout sessions. “I leave school every day at 11,” Alexis says. After the near-hour drive to Blue Springs, Alexis starts her workout, hitting the mats and bars by 1 p.m. and working out until 7 at night. “After I get home, I work on my online classes,” Alexis says. This is also the time in which she must complete any homework for her other courses—Alexis still attends four seated classes at Warrensburg High School.

A blended schedule is the only way Alexis could make everything work. “I needed to take some of my classes online because of the amount of time I’m training,” Alexis says. “I really needed Launch classes to stay on track to graduate.” While she admits that balancing her seated classes, Launch classes and training keep her very busy, Alexis cannot imagine doing anything different. “I know this is the path that I have to take to continue,” Alexis says. “And yeah, taking classes online is definitely different. I have to be responsible and actually sit down and do my work when I get home. But I know it’s what I have to do.” And she’s grateful for the opportunity. “Without Launch, I don’t know how I would be able to make everything work,” Alexis says. “Everything about Launch has been very helpful for me. My teachers are very engaged, and they are very understanding of my schedule.”

Alexis continues to be driven by goals, and she has many things to look forward to. For starters, she’s preparing herself academically for an education at the University of California—Los Angeles. “I have a full-ride scholarship to UCLA,” she says. “I committed at the end of my freshman year.” She will compete on the gymnastics team for the university. But college isn’t the only thing on her mind as she trains. “I am also trying to make it to the Olympic trials,” Alexis says. “That’s the next goal on my list.”