Sunday, April 14, 2013

East Oakland student to Mills

I haven't written a lot about my current dance class this year, in large part because it has been one of the most… well, shall we say challenging?.. classes I have taught in all my years of teaching teens — an odd and unfamiliar combination of not taking Dance seriously as a class or subject, but still caring about a good grade. This group has been hard to reach (which is also one reason my blog posts here have been pretty sparse of late).

But we do have small successes, of course, and one came recently in the form of the only senior in the class fall semester. Back in November, we had had the opportunity to attend the Mills College Dance Repertory concert as a field trip (for anyone outside the bay area, Mills is a fairly exclusive private university which boasts one of the preeminent dance programs in the area). Many of the students seemed disengaged during the performance, and needed some reminders about theater etiquette; but this senior was captivated, and talked to me extensively about both the dances she saw and the Mills campus on the way back to school.

Unfortunately, this student had to transfer out of the dance class in order to complete some other credits this semester… But a few weeks ago, she stopped by the class to tell me that she was so taken by the atmosphere on the Mills campus that she had applied there, and had just found out she was accepted! I spoke to her about it again last week, and she said that she was lining up her scholarships and financial aid, and intended to attend Mills in the fall.

The reason this is big news is that, even though Mills is located in East Oakland, just a couple of miles from the inner-city communities where my current students (as well as all my former students from EOSA) live, the low-income students in the community who even aspire to attend Mills are few and far between (those with high aspirations are much more likely to try for the UC system, which is generally much better known). One of my creative dance teaching mentors, herself a Mills graduate, mentioned to me that when her organization began working with the Oakland schools to create an elementary school dance program in the neighborhood, one of her dreams was that she would see an East Oakland student go to Mills… so, one small success from this class!

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