Exciting dance4empowerment Partnership with the Miss Amazing Pageant

I am very excited to share with you that this past weekend dance4empowerment hosted another successful event!
Over the summer, the Boston Celtics hosted their annual celebratory ceremony for all the season’s recipients of the Heroes Among Us awards.  The ceremony was heart warming and it gave me the opportunity to meet so many incredible heroes in our communities.  It was at this event when I met Andrea Nevins, co-Director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Miss Amazing Pageant, which celebrates the abilities of girls and women with disabilities.  Creating a partnership with Andrea’s program was a natural fit and, so, this past Sunday, we hosted our first joint program.
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dance4empowerment and the Miss Amazing Pageant offered the women and girls who participated in the pageant an opportunity to dance and go home with a beautiful party dress!  Sivan Elefson, the dance therapist who led the debut dance4empowerment program at Camp Ramah New England, led the dance portion of the pageant for the afternoon.  The girls had a wonderful time dancing together to their favorite songs! Unfortunately I could not watch the program run firsthand because I am at Emory University in Atlanta, GA but both Andrea and Sivan couldn’t wait to tell me that the dance program was a big success. My college schedule is very demanding but I am still motivated to continue expanding dance4empowerment’s reach.
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I am honored to have had the opportunity to help create such a fun and empowering program for the Miss Amazing Pageant participants. I want to thank Andrea for all her hard work helping to organize this great event and for running an amazing program. Thank you Sivan for sharing the same passion for dance as I do and for wanting to empower people with disabilities.  I look forward to sharing more exciting programs hosted by dance4empowerment.  If you know an organization or foundation that might be interested in partnering with dance4empowerment, please let us know!
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Dance, move, and empower,
Sierra
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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.

Thank You Boston Celtics for Naming Me Tonight’s “Hero Among Us”

Earlier this week I received a phone call from the Boston Celtics organization, a phone call I didn’t believe was real.  It wasn’t until this evening, as I was standing on center court with cheering crowds surrounding me, that I realized how real that phone call was.  Tonight, I was honored with the Celtics’ “Heroes Among Us” award and I was humbled by the experience.

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The “Heroes Among Us” initiative was established in the fall of 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.
 
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I feel very fortunate to have received so much attention for the work I am doing.  When I began my journey to create dance4empowerment, I never imagined receiving this much recognition and I am so thankful for all the positive attention, attention that will help the program grow and spread the word.  Standing in the center of the Celtics basketball court in front of over 15,000 people was so surreal.  I couldn’t stop smiling because the whole time I was thinking about how much this opportunity will, in the end, help so many students with disabilities uncover the benefits of dance.

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I am very thankful for the many people who have recognized the work that I’m doing and supported me on my journey.  Please click the link below to watch a video of the presentation from tonight’s game: http://performancehealthcenter.wistia.com/medias/7mwxwe5f00.

Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra

Honored to Receive Channel 7 News’ Class Act!

Last Thursday I was sitting in my biology class working on a lab report when a TV crew came in and started setting up.  Not sure what was going on, I continued to work with my lab partner; the last thing I expected was that our surprise visitors were there for me.  Before I knew it, two reporters from Boston’s Channel 7 News began to explain why they were visiting our classroom. 

The Class Act is a special feature on Channel 7 News that highlights “students who deserve to be recognized for doing something outstanding academically, athletically or for their community”.  To my surprise, they were presenting the award to me!  Gann Academy, my high school, has been extremely supportive of the work I’ve been doing for children with disabilities through dance4empowerment and nominated me for this award.  This recognition is humbling and I am grateful to be part of such a compassionate community. More importantly, the award provides me the opportunity to get the word out about dance4empowerment because, in the end, our goal is to improve the lives of the participants in the program.

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The mission of dance4empowerment is to help children with disabilities improve their self-esteem, social integration, and cognitive awareness through dance.  Further, we want to empower them to share their new skills of “creative expression” to raise money for communities that lack funding for inclusive art programs.  Being a recipient of Channel 7’s Class Act award helps me share dance4empowerment’s mission with the greater community and to reach more perspective students.  I feel very fortunate to receive this award because of the affect I know it will have on many future students.

I would like to thank Gann Academy for all their support and to Channel 7 News for featuring dance4empowerment on their program; I will share the date and time that the feature will be airing!

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Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra

Dancing with Inclusion -Jay Ruderman

I am so honored to introduce Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, as a guest blogger for dance4empowerment.  His dedication to raising awareness, providing opportunities, creating change for people with disabilities in Boston, Israel, and throughout the world is truly inspiring.  I am very fortunate for his support in my endeavors to create and expand dance4empowerment.  

Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra

 

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I am President of a foundation that believes in the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community and society at large. Some would say it’s a lofty idea but too hard to implement. It’s too difficult to change people’s perceptions, tough to erase pre-existing prejudices, too costly or we’re just not ready. I hear this all the time and my answer is: it takes two to tango.

Before learning to dance, you size up your partner: they may not be the same height or same weight, they look clumsy, they’re nervous. In short, they look different from you and you’re very unsure how this will work out. 

But then the music starts. You begin to move in tandem, you work together, you start to move flawlessly across the dance floor. Suddenly, what seemed like a potential weakness becomes a strength: you play off of each other. It takes time, it takes patience and you’ll have to work through many potential failures and missteps. But at the end of the journey, you’ve learned to tango! 

Inclusion is not as difficult as it seems. Yes, some people with disabilities may look or act different. Yes, it takes time and patience to work with them, get to know them and learn how to include them. But EVERYONE has potential, everyone can contribute, everyone can improve our community.

The Jewish community is an amazing community, one that is dedicated to social justice, tikkun olam (healing the world) and has been at the forefront of every social movement of the last half century. We have the ability to exact lasting change within society at large. The time has come to do the same within our own community for the 20% of our people who have a disability.

It takes two to tango. Take the first step. The end results will be extremely satisfying.

Jay Ruderman is the President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

 

dance4empowerment in the News!

dance4empowerment was featured in two publications this week, the Boston Globe and the Jewish Advocate.  I am honored that the Boston community has taken notice of the program and we will continue to promote inclusion for people with disabilities.  Please see images below and feel free to spread the word!

Article in the Boston Globe:

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Article in the Jewish Advocate:

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Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra