I just got back from Oklahoma and had a chance to see the fruits of my sister's dream! She has started a program to bring ballroom dancing into the public schools. Last fall the program was in 8 schools. Next fall, it will be in 26!! Originally she was going to limit it to fifth graders, but this year they are going to do a pilot in an alternative high school and a couple of middle schools.
I was blown away by the poise and abilities of these young ladies and gentlemen. I have seen some of these dancers over the course of the year and they have made unbelievable progress. The testimonies of the principals of these schools will knock your socks off. Two of them said they had had NO referrals for discipline since the program started. WOW! I am excited to see what occurs at the middle and high school levels.
The dance instructors have poured their hearts out into these students. You haven't lived until you see a 6'5", 280# national guard recruiter dancing in cammie and combat boots. Four of the instructors are Oklahoma National Guardsmen who volunteer their time as a community service opportunity. According to them, they get lots more out of it than the children! Other instructors are men and women who have "caught" my sister's vision for the young people of her community. All of the instructors have been taking lessons and are certified...which means they can dance either part...I can't dance one part.
But probably the most remarkable part of this story is the mentoring which is going on with the children. Many are being reared in single parent homes with no positive male influence. My sister describes the program as a mentoring program disguised as a dance program. I would like to challenge you, like my sister has, to take yourself to your neighborhood school, YMCA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters (like Janie over at Soundingforth), or elsewhere and get involved with a child. Make a difference by giving a child some one on one time. I am going to find me one to work with when school starts this fall.