"Born Dancing, Inc is one of the most beautiful organizations I have had the pleasure of working with as a teacher. Melissa is a very organized coordinator, has excellent management of student learning and behavior, and communicates the needs of the students and the production efficiently.

My students, aged 7 through 11 from the Bronx, learned three professionally choreographed dances and participated in a full-length dance production highlighting the abilities of all of the participants. My students danced with and learned from a diverse group of professionals and amateurs - dancers of all ages, cultural backgrounds, varying disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy, as well as a dancer who was deaf. The interactions my students had with these individuals from across the city, and the teamwork required to complete the production, provided them with life lessons of an inclusive culture in an organic way; life lessons that they could not learn within the confines of a classroom. What made this experience so touching was how my students saw all of the dancers abilities rather than disabilities throughout the project. A truly beautiful lesson that every teacher would love their students to learn.

Additionally, the elementary aged students were exposed to a plethora of job and career opportunities that they may not have been privy to without this experience. These include interacting with a live orchestra, choreographers, sound engineers, professional dancers, lighting technicians, and many other ‘behind the scenes’ jobs that make a production come to life. Although the rehearsal schedule is grueling, the students learned that anything that is truly worth having and participating in requires diligence and commitment.

My students finished this experience with understandings of jobs to consider for their future, understanding the value of focused work with a commitment to a team to achieve a common goal, and, most importantly, that all members of the team, no matter their ability level, has something of value to contribute to the community. These life lessons could not have been taught in a classroom as effectively as Melissa and Born Dancing, Inc. taught them. As New York City public school special education teacher for eleven years, I believe that every teacher should jump at the opportunity to work with such an amazing program."  

Respectfully submitted,  

Jennifer Flinn-Knizeski

PS 153