dance4empowerment Featured on a Podcast!

In August, I started my college career at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  I selected Emory for many reasons but one of the highlights includes the learning opportunities the university provides related to disabilities.  Emory has a Down Syndrome Clinic for children, infancy to age 14, and a top research initiative on autism.  During my time at Emory, I plan to take advantage of these amazing opportunities.

Although I have been very busy with my new environment, interesting classes, classwork, and meeting lots of people, I continue to work towards achieving the goals of dance4empowerment – setting up dance programs for people with disabilities and fostering partnerships with foundations in the Boston area while promoting more inclusion.  Shortly after arriving in Atlanta, I received an email from Prepped & Polished, an educational service that has been in existence for 15 years, asking to be interviewed for a podcast.  Their education and inspiration podcasts aim to provide “groundbreaking insight from today‘s most influential educators, leaders, and minds.”  I was honored to discuss my work with dance4empowerment and to give advice to high school students about preparing for college.  I invite you to take the time to listen to the podcast and encourage you to share it:http://preppedandpolished.com/sierra-weiss-empowering-students-through-dance/

Thank you for your ongoing support, I hope you will continue to follow me on my journey!
 
Dance, move, and empower,
Sierra
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Heroes Among Us Award

On March 9th I stood at the center of the Boston Celtics’ basketball court in the TD Garden and received a very humbling standing ovation from over 18,000 fans.  A week ago, I received my official award from the Celtics at their annual Heroes Among Us ceremony at the MA State House.  Sitting with the 2013-2014 season’s cohort of Heroes Among Us award recipients and hearing their incredible stories was truly inspiring.
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From left to right: Treasurer Steve Grossman, Boston Celtics President Rich Gotham, Sierra Weiss, Celtics Legend Tommy Heinsohn, and Bianca de la Garza
The “Heroes Among Us” initiative was established in 1997 and “honors those individuals who have made an overwhelming impact on the lives of others.”  To date, the Boston Celtics Charitable Foundation has awarded 650 individuals with the award, each receiving their own game to shine.
The fact that an organization like the Boston Celtics recognizes someone from the community at each home game every season and takes the time to share their heroism with their fans, players, and opponents is amazing.  I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to share this special moment with my family and colleagues.  As an intern for Representative Kay Khan, co-Chair on the Committee on Families, Children, and Persons with Disabilities, I was honored to have her and her staff attend the ceremony.
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From left to right, Representative Kay Khan, Treasurer Steve Grossman, Wyatt Mufson, Rich Gotham, Sierra Weiss, Debra Weiss, Tommy Heinsohn, Zoe Weiss, Bianca de la Garza, Selma Weiss, and Brad Weiss

I feel proud to have received this award.  Every time I see it it reignites my passion for the work I’m doing to create dance programs for children with disabilities.  Although the journey can be tough at times, moments like this ceremony keep me pushing forward in the hopes of creating a more inclusive community.

Dance, move, and empower,
Sierra

Like Dance4Empowerment on Facebook!

I am very excited to announce that dance4empowerment, inc. now has a Facebook page where we will share updates and interesting articles about the inclusion of people with disabilities.  dance4empowerment is also on Instagram for the purpose of sharing photos and news updates.  Please take a moment to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram to help raise awareness and get quick updates on our progress.  Additionally, if you haven’t already ​followed us on Twitter or on WordPress, please do! Thank you so much for your support and enjoy the rest of your summer.

 

Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra

Important Social Media Milestones

This week, dance4empowerment reached two great achievements.  First, the @dance4empower Twitter account that shares inspiring content on the field of disabilities and inclusion throughout the world reached its first-year anniversary.  Since the creation of the Twitter account, over 230 people have followed us and many more have “favorited”, “retweeted”, and shared our content.  The next step is to create a Facebook account to share more content, pictures, and videos with everyone who follows us on Twitter and also those who don’t have Twitter accounts.
Our second milestone this week was getting our 3,oooth viewer on the dance4empowerment WordPress blog.  This is particularly exciting because the blog was the first form of social media I ever used to share the work I am doing, I am humbled by the number of people who have read and followed me throughout my journey.
One significant chapter of my journey that recently came to a close was high school and my senior project called Ma’avar.  Gann Academy offered me so many opportunities to further my passion for dance and the inclusion of people with disabilities.  I am thankful for the time I was given to perform an Independent Research and Design project on the genetics of Down’s syndrome and the week I spent learning from the pioneers of inclusion in Israel.  Although Ma’avar technically came to a close last week, I will continue my work into the summer and spend more time interning at the MA State House and for the Ruderman Family Foundation.
I am learning so much from both of my internships and having incredible experiences.  In my internship at the Ruderman Family Foundation, I am learning important lessons on social media and SEO ratings.  I am grateful to Jay Ruderman, President of the RFF, for the opportunity to intern for his family’s inspiring Foundation.  I have been interning for the RFF for over a year now and am honored to work with such a talented, thoughtful, and impressive group of people.
Additionally, I am glad to continue as an intern in Representative Kay Khan’s office in the MA State House.  Rep. Khan is the House Chair on the Joint Committee for Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities.  She shares my passion for dance and is a leader in making Massachusetts a more inclusive city for people with disabilities.  I was honored to have her join me at my graduation and look forward to working in her office throughout the summer. One of the many opportunities given to State House interns is a series of seminars hosted twice daily.  A variety of speakers come to share their experiences working in the State House, including House Representatives, Senators, and even the Governor.  Last week I attended a seminar by the Speaker of the House, Speaker DeLeo.  He shared his experiences with us and, most inspirational, was his response to a question about his greatest success during his career at the State House.  After some thought, he decided that the accomplishment he was most proud of was the impact that he had on a specific mother of two children with autism.  When he initially met this woman, they discussed legislation that would improve the lives of people with autism and other disabilities as they aged out of the school system.  This legislation was eventually passed and, when he ran into this woman again, she thanked him for all the work that he did to make the lives of her children better.  To Speaker DeLeo, seeing the impact he could have on this woman and her two children was extremely special to him and truly inspirational to me.  It taught me that, in the end, it doesn’t matter how many people follow the dance4empowerment Twitter account or read our blog, but how every step I take to further dance4empowerment can affect the students who will participate in the program.  I hope to take his words with me in everything I do and I feel fortunate to know that I have already made an impact on people along the way.
 
Dance, move, and empower,
Sierra

Inspiring Performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

Last Thursday night my family and I went to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre for my mum’s birthday.  Although the evening was meant to celebrate my mum, the performance was so inspirational and appealed to me not just as a dancer, but in light of the work I do with dance4empowerment as well.

Alvin Ailey was an African American choreographer and an activist who founded the dance company in New York that bears his name. The goal of his dance company was to celebrate African-American culture through dance and movement. Drawing upon his childhood memories of oppression and segregation, Ailey popularized modern dance in the 20th century and, further, revolutionized African-American participation in dance performances.  Having recently visited the South on a Civil Rights journey, I was touched by Alvin Ailey’s story and impressed with his passion for dance. The legacy of Ailey’s commitment to dance and to his heritage was apparent in Thursday night’s performance. 

Ailey’s strong commitment to his “unique” community spoke to me the most as my non-profit, dance4empowerment, works towards the inclusion of people with disabilities.  My goal is to bring dance to as many people with disabilities in our communities as a means of self-expression and growth.  And, like Ailey, I hope that my program will continue to expand, improve, and influence over time.

Ma’avar Blog #1

The Hebrew word ma’avar means “transitions,” so it makes sense that the final months of senior year at Gann Academy concludes with a Ma’avar program. The program is designed to give students the opportunity to transition from the classroom to the community and explore their interests until graduation.  I feel very fortunate to have this time to return to two internships I participated in last summer and to devote quality time to dance4empowerment before leaving to college in the Fall.

This week I returned to the Massachusetts State House as an intern for Representative Kay Khan of Newton; Rep. Khan is the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.  When I interned in Rep. Khan’s office during the summer, I learned so much about government and politics so I am honored to return to her office and learn more. In addition, I consider Rep. Khan a mentor in my volunteer work for people with disabilities as she was one of the first people to help me develop my ideas and goals for dance4empowerment; being back in her office will give me the opportunity to share my progress with her more frequently.

Besides my internship at the State House, I will continue my internship with the Ruderman Family Foundation.  Rep. Khan is actually responsible for introducing me to Mr. Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, because of our shared interest in the inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish communities. Working with Mr. Ruderman and for his family’s Foundation has been inspirational and has greatly benefitted the development of dance4empowerment.

The final commitment of my Ma’avar project, is the much needed time to work on cementing the dance4empowerment program for next year.  I want to spend time building new relationships with foundations that are willing to host or support dance4empowerment programming, enhancing our marketing and publicity, and expanding the dance4empowerment program throughout the Boston area.

I am really excited for Ma’avar; I am embracing the opportunity the program gives me to continue to learn from local leaders and to focus on dance4empowerment. Please stay connected to my blog as I will be posting on my progress!

 

Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra