American Anai Espinoza is in the eighth grade. This summer, she took part in a summer dance program called AileyCamp. Each morning, she and other campers would say several phrases together. Her favorite is this: “I am in control.”
Espinoza said, “It makes me believe I have the power to choose the right thing.”
AileyCamp was created in 1989 in Kansas City, Missouri by world-famous dancer and director Alvin Ailey. About 1,000 students in 10 U.S. states take part in AileyCamp every year. It is a free, six-week program aimed at young people in financial need or who have school, social or family difficulties.
In addition to dance, the camp introduces students to visual arts, creative writing and other communication skills. It also teaches them how to eat well, solve conflicts and become leaders, notes the camp’s website.
Dianne Caroll Sales directs the AileyCamp in Atlanta, Georgia. When the camp over, the city’s professional ballet company offers 10 students a full-tuition scholarship for a year of training. The scholarship can be renewed.
Kameron Davis received one of those scholarships when he was a young man. He trained with the Atlanta Ballet for three years. Then he became a dance teacher. Davis said he does not think his mother could have paid for dance classes without the scholarship.
Davis said children at school made fun of him when he began dancing. AileyCamp, he said, offered him a safe place and increased his confidence. Today, he enjoys giving back to the program by helping new campers build their confidence, too.
“It’s an open door to finding new things, doing new things,” Davis said. “When I got to AileyCamp, it just reassured me that, ‘Hey, it’s okay. Everybody is different. You shouldn’t be judged by what you do just because not a lot of people do it.’”
I’m Ashley Thompson.
The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
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Words in This Story
ballet - n. a kind of dancing that is performed on a stage and that uses dance, music, costumes, and scenery to tell a story
confidence - n. a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something
scholarship - n. n amount of money that is given by a school, an organization, etc., to a student to help pay for the student's education
reassure - v. to make (someone) feel less afraid, upset, or doubtful