The Youth Dance Program (YDP), a part of the DEA Educational Foundation, is a free after-school dance program serving at-risk students in cities around the country. This May, Shepherdstown Elementary students will get a taste of the program. YDP has grown to be the most successful after-school dance program in the U.S., influencing thousands of students each year through the healthy outlet of dance.
The YDP program has been highly successful in filling a void in many communities. As students don't always have the opportunity to dance due to conflicts in schedules and financial restraints; they can participate easily right in their school environment for free without parents having to take them to and from another location. Through the professional assembly at Shepherdstown conducted by ClancyWorks Dance company from Maryland, students learned about the importance of staying drug free to build strong bodies, solid relationships and living their dreams. They watched as dancers worked as a team to demonstrate powerful choreography and, through student participation at the assembly, how dance brings a smile to your face simply through the pure joy of movement.
In May, Julie Peoples-Clark, Regional Manager and professional dancer will go to Shepherdstown Elementary for a three-week workshop working with each of the students at Shepherdstown multiple times over the weeks. At the end of the three-week session the students will perform for the school and one student will be eligible for a dance scholarship at a local studio.
"By offering a dance program at Shepherdstown Elementary, kids may find a love in an activity they never knew much about or thought they would ever try," said Jill Roberts, founder and national director.
As Roberts works to reach communities and show them the importance of the DEA Youth Dance Program in schools and their unique role in providing kids a positive and healthy outlet to drugs. She works to show the importance of the program within the DEA Educational Foundation and maintain strong relationships with community officials, the Drug Enforcement Administration and contributors and partners.
"I am constantly developing ways to enhance the quality of the program, manage the budget, keep the team of Regional Managers and consultants united in our mission, fundraise for this important cause to maintain and expand programming and I continue to work with our partners to reach children in the most effective ways," Roberts commented.
Roberts grew up as a dancer. As she excelled in school, she remembers the unbelievable feeling she herself would get while dancing, practicing and performing on stage. While Roberts was at Georgetown University, she became the co-director of the Georgetown University Dance Company.
"As part of our mission I had the opportunity to go into the community through outreach programs and work in retirement communities, at-risk schools and even with cancer patients. There was one consistent theme throughout all of these visits. People were over-joyed when they danced. They smiled. They were happy. Dance is an activity that is for everyone because you don't have to be the most technically advanced dancer to move and have fun," Roberts shared.
The DEA Youth Dance Program aims to bring kids a healthy and positive program through dance while positive role models remind students to avoid the dangers of drugs and negative behaviors in their discussions during the kick-off assembly. Because children do not always have the opportunity to dance in a studio environment, with classes often costing $20 per class, this allows students to engage in dance for free in the safe environment of their school.
"It is our hope that children will learn that pure movement and working together makes you feel good, is a great way to exercise, a wonderful way to express yourself without words and a possible long-term focus if someone has a strong interest," Roberts said.