Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Schools That Rock!

From naplesnews.com (Naples, FL):

Kickin’ it old school: Immokalee Middle School students get a lesson in ballroom dancing

Friday, January 1, 2010
COLLIER COUNTY — Immokalee Middle School students didn’t just run into holiday break.

They salsaed, waltzed and cha-chaed into it.

“It’s a whole lot of fun,” eighth-grader Jevon Alberique said of dancing. “At first I didn’t want to do it, but it has been one of the best things we have done.”

The Immokalee Middle School students performed as part of the Schools That Rock program, which returned to the school for its third year.
Schools That Rock teaches the students how to swing, salsa, merengue, waltz and cha-cha within a two-week span.

The program was created and sponsored by Bradenton-based World Dance Arts Foundation. It was brought to Immokalee Middle School by a donation from Eva Sugden Gomez, a Naples woman from a philanthropic family.

“I am a ballroom dancer. That is my hobby. When I heard about the World Dance Arts Foundation’s program, I knew I wanted to contribute to it,” she said. “Dancing is social. It teaches you about setting goals. And it is participating in something that is fun.”

The curriculum needs a sponsor because the Collier County School District doesn’t have the $3,000 per school to spare to bring it to local middle schools.

“We are very fortunate to have this partnership so that students have this experience,” Immokalee Middle School Principal Abel Jaimes said. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the hard work our students have put in.”
Immokalee Middle School students taking physical education participated in the program under the guidance of professional dance instructor Molly Cook, of Naples.

“I love them,” Cook said of her students. “I hope this gives them a sense of accomplishment, a sense of dignity and hopefully a knowledge of ballroom dancing.”

On the day of their performance, the students’ teachers, peers and parents came to the cafeteria to watch the fruits of their labor. The students entered in pairs of two, dressed like they were headed to a school dance.

As the first group of students walked onto the floor, their faces looked nervous. But once “Jingle Bell Rock” began playing through the speakers, their nervous faces broke into smiles, even if they occasionally stepped on their partner’s foot.

Some even counted as Cook, with her Santa hat on her head, reminded them to keep their heads up.

“It’s pretty fun. It’s been interesting,” said John Gonzalez, a 13-year-old seventh-grader. “I like the cha-cha. It’s fun and it’s the one I know.”

The program first came to Collier County a few years ago, when Community School of Naples parent Debra Stevens got the first Schools That Rock going at Community School.

“The goal is to get all of the middle schools handled,” she said. “It teaches them an art form that encourages respect. It is creative and multicultural and stretches their knowledge of music.”

Stevens admits the students are reluctant at first, but said by the end of the class, they are looking forward to it.

Hilda Lozano certainly thinks that’s true. She and her husband, Artemio, came to see their daughter, Loura, dance. Loura chose her father as her dance partner for the open dance competition at the end of the performance.

“She was excited. She’s been showing her dad at home,” Lozano said as she watched Loura merengue with her father. “It’s good. They need to learn something different.”

Aisa Gonzalez, a migrant resource teacher at the school, was asked to dance by eighth-grader Dave Rouzard. The two won the open dance competition.
“I love doing this and he can dance so well,” she said. “It’s wonderful and the kids love (Cook).”

The feeling is obviously mutual as Cook hugs her students at the end of the performance.

“They all touch me ... When they get out there, I get goose bumps,” she said. “They blow my mind every time.”

Immokalee Middle School, which was the first school Cook taught the program at, also has a special place in her heart.

“These kids are so appreciative,” she said. “(They) made my Christmas.”

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