Reflections from your AWAP Program Supervisor

Emmy was so busy during the month of June (She teaches in regular dance studios, too… and June is recital time!)… We haven’t had a blog post from her for a while. And now The Amazing Emmy is out of state, doing 2 weeks with a day camp for homeless youth, something she has been doing with this particular organization for several years. She loves it, and we are grateful for what she has learned and experienced there, as it has shaped who she is now with our Denney youth. Without her experience AND her dedication and intuition about how best to serve this demographic, Arts With A Purpose would not be seeing the fabulous growth and progress we now enjoy. So as our AWAP program supervisor, I wanted to thank her in a way that anyone and everyone can see.  Emmy is at the heart of why our kids are doing so well, and why they are learning to love dance and performance, and it is a magical and wonderful thing!

UPDATE: Arts With A Purpose now has a board of directors, and is working on finishing all the appropriate paperwork required when applying for nonprofit status… first with the state and then with the federal government. Hopefully that will all happen very soon.  It is mind boggling to me how many talented and qualified people have stepped forward to say that they want to be a part of AWAP and help it fulfill its mission. Between Emmy’s networking, my own personal & professional contacts, Facebook, Denney staff, and assorted community members, we now have a small army of supporters. And the very best of this group is on our board. The way everything continues to fall into place is nothing short of remarkable, and a testimony to us all that this is where we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing. And besides dance lessons and performances, we are bringing guest speakers and performers to our incarcerated youth.

Which leads me to two events we had this past weekend in detention. Saturday we were blessed to spend 90 minutes with Christian Paige. (  He told stories, recited his own POWERFUL original poetry, shared important life lessons he has learned (some of them in Tacoma and Everett neighborhoods these same kids came from), and did it from such a place of authenticity that all the kids received him and related to him beautifully. At least half of his time was just spent in honest Q & A & discussion, covering things like rap artists and their music, dealing with the death of a loved one, the power of words, and setting & reaching important life goals. One student I really hoped would be inspired by Christian as a motivational speaker responded with such joy and enthusiasm I find myself at a loss to describe it. I truly believe it was a life changing day for him. My favorite moment? Christian blowing them away with a rapid fire delivery of a poem for the ages, and one startled youth applauding and shouting, “And I didn’t hear one cuss word!” Yes! It can be done! 🙂 Okay… I guess that was my second favorite moment. The first was probably the fist bump and smile he gave me at the end of the session. Yes… they loved it.

Sunday the Overman Family came to entertain. The mother, father, and five of their 8 children were there, playing in turns the violin, cello, flute, and guitar. The music included hymns, folk songs, George Frederick Handel, a stirring rendition of Danny Boy, and a ROUSING gypsy tune that was the clear favorite. The young woman playing the violin for that number is impressively gifted, and is about 19 years old. She has studied violin since she was two years old. What a treat for our detainees to witness someone close to their own age reaping the benefits of dedicating themselves long term to their art. She also did a fabulous ballet solo during the program, and the gasps were audible when she slid into the splits, and came close to touching the back of her head with her foot during a couple of arching leaps. One female detainee got to spend extra time with her after the program, looking at her pointe shoes and her violin. Wonderful seeds were planted. My favorite moment that day? Hearing at least 3 different members of that family tell this young woman – independently – that she has a beautiful smile, which she does. There was a time we didn’t see her smile at all.

Good things are happening inside detention at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. We feel so privileged to be a part of it.


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