KAREN GREER

Daily Point of Light # 2476 Aug 1, 2003

DANCE Empowerment is a collaborative community-based youth program designed to use the current popularity of Hip-Hop music and the fascination with cultural arts and dance among youth to educate and teach them important life skills, as well as discipline while providing an important outlet for social expression. Dance, Hip-Hop music and sports is the lynchpin to developing important family and community values for at-risk youth of the community. The ultimate goal is to take a non-traditional approach to improve education, family and community commitment. DANCE Empowerment serves as a unique vehicle to accomplish that ideal through its motto of “Stay Drug Free, Stay in School and Stay Away From Gangs and Violence.”

DANCE Empowerment gained nationwide attention in Fresno, California; and this program is a replica of that successful program. They are providing the same positive educational and recreations outlet for the youth in Southern Maryland. They seek to empower youth through the innovative integration of performing arts (dance and music), and the improvement of academic skills, leadership skills, civic responsibility, creative energy, cultural arts and the development of coping strategies.

DANCE Empowerment accepts participants in its youth program from ages 5-18 from the general area of Southern Maryland. The program is systematically designed to serve youth who are idle or in need of activities to keep them on the right track to success. The program does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed or color. The goal is to provide every eligible young person in the targeted community with an opportunity to develop and express their God-given talent in a wholesome, safe, supervised and structured environment.

For the past three years, the Southern Maryland program has been operating efficiently on a grassroots level without the benefit of major funding. Youth throughout the Southern Maryland counties have been enlightened and empowered. The program in Maryland started with a small group of community youth; however, it now numbers in excess of 50 children during any given session. Program activities are closely supervised and monitored by a professional staff. Parents are also invited to participate and experience just what their children are learning first hand.

The youth currently meet three days a week after school at various sites. This summer, it will be a full-time program. The dance troupe uses music and its dance routines to deliver the message that there are always good alternatives to bad choices. Participants are actively learning dance routines and life skills training in areas such as academic enrichment, alcohol and drug prevention, character building, conflict resolution, cultural enrichment, gang intervention, mentoring, sports and tutoring. To date, the DANCE Empowerment dance troupe has provided entertainment for several local groups with more performances planned for churches, community groups, schools and special events like the Southern Maryland Fair.

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