From science to the stage, Hilton Head Prep student wins big



When it comes to achieving goals, Rachel Stratton is a big believer in balance: “I like to get things done so I can be ready for what’s coming next.”

And she’s certainly getting things done. In just the past few months, she has shared the stage at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina with Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy and earned two awards from the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico, including the People’s Choice Award, for her “What’s in Your Water?” project, examining whether containers marketed as BPA-free truly are.

The rising Hilton Head Preparatory School senior describes herself as a science nerd. But she’s also a fierce dancer and an actress — a multi-talented multitasker. And she does it all while maintaining academic success and pursuing personal passions including photography and varsity volleyball.

Ever since her first science fair as a high school freshman, Rachel has been on a clearly defined trajectory, winning first place in her category at the SCISA State Science Fair and first place at the Sea Island Regional Science Fair, earning the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize and the 2017 Ricoh Sustainable Development Award, and finding success at the 2017-19 INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair.


“Our successful students find something they’re passionate about and build their projects around that,” said Janet Sullivan, the chairwoman of Hilton Head Prep’s science department. “Not to be limited by island resources but reaching out to the university level. That’s what set Rachel apart. She set her bar high and took that approach, working with University of Georgia and University of Florida labs, and it really paid off.”

Others agree that Rachel is a force to be reckoned with.

“Rachel is a triple-threat talent, made even more rare in that she brings a luminous quality to every performance ... the ‘it’ factor,” said Andrea Gannon, the vice president of marketing for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. “In addition to her onstage prowess, easily evidenced from her roles in our ‘Gypsy’ as Baby June and Jane Banks in our ‘Mary Poppins,’ she is off-the-charts intelligent. Rachel just returned from competing in her third consecutive International Science Fair. Beauty, brains, and talent ... she has it all, truly.”

Rachel02Rachel attributes her scientific success to lessons learned during rigorous dance intensives at the Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, Austin’s American Ballet Theatre and at Hilton Head Dance Theatre, as well as performances onstage at Hilton Head Prep and the Arts Center. “It’s all connected – ballet, theater and science,” she said. “Hard work, discipline and performance technique have taught me how to appear in front of large audiences and effectively get my message across.”

New York-based director Casey Colgan first put her onstage in the Arts Center’s production of “Gypsy.” 

“The first time we met, I did a little dance step and she followed right along. I said, ‘Yeah, but can you do this?’ and she could do everything. Baby June called for an incredible little dancer and, hard worker that she is, she did it, and on pointe,” Colgan said. “Later, in ‘Mary Poppins,’ I had so much trust in her, I knew she’d be great in her role, and serve as a leader to the other kids.” 

“Saturday Night Fever,” starring “American Idol” winner Candice Glover, was a pivotal step for Rachel, helping her move into more adult roles. And her talent helped her blend seamlessly with the professional dancers onstage.

“As a director, I’m most proud of her growth. Her professional ballet training made it easy for her to take direction – while her beauty and the sparkle in her eyes is honestly the icing on the cake that gives her that star quality on stage.”

“Taking that last bow has been a big part of my life,” Rachel said. “Connections with actors from New York, partnering and having that trust component, supporting each other, that’s a metaphor for everything in life.”