Here's what happened
At the Center for Contemporary Dance, we prioritize the delivery of outstanding dance education experiences to children from underrepresented populations. For this reason, many of the kids we serve through place-based and community programs come from households listed below the federal poverty level. So, when Hurricane Irma hit Florida this past September, we were most concerned about the storm’s impact on families already in a vulnerable position.
While we weathered the storm, 23 of the low-income families we serve didn’t make out so well. Lengthy power outages, payment of insurance deductibles and storm preparation expenses left these families with nothing to spare—now and for at least the next year.
Even with sliding-scale tuition rates in place, these 23 families had to make the difficult decision to STOP their child’s studies in dance to recover from storm losses.
Most of the young dancers in these families came to us through our relationships with homeless shelters, foster care programs, LGBTQ counseling professionals and disability advocacy agencies. So, on top of economic stresses, they are also facing profound social challenges.
Through participation in our programs, these kids are equipped with the ability to:
- Creatively and constructively express their feelings, thoughts and ideas
- Practice the kind of focus and discipline necessary to achieve excellence
- Work with others to validate their place, impact and value in a community
- Deepen their investments in education, community and self-growth to effectively disrupt the cycle of poverty
As a small nonprofit organization, we depend on every tuition dollar to cover operating expenses, and 23 families collectively contributing $1,541 each month is a significant loss. But even more important is the loss suffered by children who depend on us to provide them with meaningful dance education experiences that cultivate their creativity, self-esteem, sense of belonging, academic success and social skills.
Ethically, we couldn't just turn away a population of kids who were in the midst of a life-affirming process that leverages dance as a tool for teaching critical skills in areas that extend beyond the arts.
In order to equip these future dancers, scientists and presidents with the confidence to step forward and reach their highest potential, we knew we had to find a way to continue our work with them.
Here's what our team did
In less than 2 weeks following Hurricane Irma, our Founders, top-level staff and Board of Directors made the unanimous decision to welcome back each and every one of the 23 students—without paying a cent in tuition from September 2017 through the entire New Year!
“Come to class!” we said. “We’ll find a way to pay your way,” we promised.
And every one of the 23 children returned to dance, with beaming smiles and deeply moving expressions of gratitude from their guardians.
Now, we need you to help us raise the $25,000 that covers scholarships for vulnerable kids affected by a terrible storm.
With your support, 23 more children can learn to master their emotions, discover their value, become confident leaders and gain access to a multitude of other life-changing lessons, even though their families can’t afford to pay for them.
Here's how you can help
We know $25,000 is a lofty goal. To a small nonprofit like the Center for Contemporary Dance, $25,000 is a ton of money that goes a long way. In fact, it’s just about 70% of our current financial assistance program—and 23 young people in foster care, homeless shelters, and other difficult life circumstances need this unanticipated support now.
We can successfully take care of them for the next year if we can raise the additional $25,000 for our financial assistance program, while still covering tuition costs for the other 50 kids that benefit from scholarship funding. That’s why raising this money is such a big deal.
Because $25,000 impacts the lives so many kids who are already deeply invested in our programs, we decided to launch our #ForEVERYDancer Campaign to grow our scholarship fund.
Here's what we can do with $25,000:
- Cover a year of dance classes for 23 kids impacted by Hurricane Irma
- Buy ballet slippers for 40 young dancers
- Give 10 girls from low-income families access to our Girl Power Summer Dance Camp
- Treat 50 at-risk youth to a professional dance performance
- Install a new wheelchair ramp to better accommodate dancers with unique abilities
- Protect scholarship funding for 50 additional kids that benefit from financial assistance
The 23 kids affected by Hurricane Irma and the 50 others who benefit from scholarship funding are just the beginning. No less than 80 kids are waiting for financial assistance to join our programs, including those who have relocated to Central Florida from Puerto Rico after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Our vision at the Center for Contemporary Dance is that EVERY child in our region who wants to dance—regardless of race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or geographic location—will have access to a game-changing program designed to help break the cycle of poverty by equipping participants with the tools to succeed academically, creatively and emotionally.
This is how we validate a child and manifest opportunities for that child to define her future, contribute to his community and choose achievement over defeat.
As our Executive Director, Craig W. Johnson says, "Great talent is waiting to emerge from every environment and population. It's our ethical and professional duty to call them forward and cultivate their contribution to the world."
We believe our community will see the value of the work and join us in giving underrepresented kids a brighter future. We can start with 23 kids who need our help now.
We believe you will join us in raising this money for kids who deserve access to inclusive arts education models and innovative teaching methods designed to support success #ForEVERYDancer.
By donating to our #ForEVERYDancer Campaign, you’ll help make sure that EVERY burgeoning artist, inventor and mastermind has the chance to experience a life full of dance!
Here's how you'll impact kids in need
We know our programs are changing kids’ lives because they tell us that they are! According to our annual impact survey, completed by participants and families receiving scholarship and sliding-scale tuition support:
- 92% of the kids said that the program has improved their outlook on life and made them happier
- 100% of parents or guardians of these children report that the dance program has led to improvement in a child's mood, focus and academic performance
- 82% of families with kids ages 12 to 17 credit the Center for Contemporary Dance with inspiring them to become more involved with their community through volunteerism
- 91% of kids said the Center for Contemporary Dance is a place where they feel safe initiating new friendships and creatively communicating their thoughts, ideas and feelings
Your donation to our #ForEVERYDancer Campaign directly supports 23 children of poverty, giving them the opportunity to participate in our programs for an entire year, including seasonal offerings like our Girl Power Summer Dance Camp. Children also receive appropriate dance attire and participate in two annual shows that validate their achievements. Families who need transportation also receive assistance for bus fare and car-for-hire services, like Uber and Lyft.
Here’s the breakdown of how we'll use donations collected through our #ForEVERYDancer Campaign:
- 74% of all gifts collected directly funds 2017-2018 scholarships for 23 children of poverty impacted by Hurricane Irma.
- 16% of your money fully covers tuition for 10 girls from low-income families to attend our Girl Power Summer Dance Camp, where they learn to confidently express their story through dance, stand up for themselves, and gain skills in self-discipline, teamwork and positive choice-making.
- 10% of your donation helps us make space accessibility improvements for dancers of all abilities, including the installation of a new wheelchair ramp for dancers to enter the classroom space directly from the outdoor walkway, rather than having to navigate through a busy lobby area.
If we (miraculously) exceed our fundraising goal, we’ll use your gifts to make a difference for more dancers in need. Here’s how:
- Provide financial assistance to 80 more kids who are currently waiting for financial assistance to attend our programs.
- Support kids with special needs who participate in a 12-year-old program that successfully mainstreams them into dance classes that are open to the general population. The organization was recognized for its success in this area with a 2017 Diversity & Inclusion Award from the State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
- Supplement awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and United Arts of Central Florida that annually fund public school programs reaching 5,000 disadvantaged children, 89% of whom qualify for the federal free-and-reduced meal program. With greater funding, we can invite even more children into established programs, free of charge.
- Support kids in need who wish to participate in a 2018 dance-puppetry project, conducted in partnership with MicheLee Puppets (check them out and support their great work, too!). A fully inclusive dance-puppetry performance course, Together We Rise facilitates immersive, creative and educational interaction among student artists of all levels and abilities, supporting the development of mentally, physically and emotionally healthier individuals and their social units. Learn more about Together We Rise.
This past year, we leveraged $35,000 to give more than 500 at-risk, minority and marginalized kids access to outstanding performances and programs that include customized lessons validating their unique emotional, creative and social needs. Over the past 16 years, we've reached over 48,000 kids in need through dance.
We can do even more with your support. Your gift makes a world of difference for our community and #ForEVERYDancer in it!
Here's how you can take action today
- Donate Now: For every $800 we raise together, one more child in need can participate in another year of class to experience the many life-changing lessons included in our programs. And for every $400, one girl gets to experience our Girl Power Summer Dance Camp, where she will gain the confidence to stand up for herself, the ability to create and communicate her story through dance, and pride in celebrating who she is. When you give, you directly impact the lives of kids in need and send a clear message that our community fiercely cares about preparing them for a bright future!
- Tell Your Friends: Please share the #ForEVERYDancer Campaign on Facebook, Twitter, email—whatever you can do to help us get the word out!
- Share Your Story: We’d love to hear YOUR story about why you stand #ForEVERYDancer or how the Center for Contemporary Dance impacted you or a child you care about. Share your story by posting on Facebook!
Thank you for helping us to deliver important and effective dance education programs to the kids who need us most. Together, we can lessen the invisibility of kids from marginalized populations by showing them that we care and that we WILL continue to proudly stand up #ForEVERYDancer.