On campus and off, HWS dance students are putting classroom lessons into practice as they engage young people from the Geneva area in interdisciplinary programs and activities that promote keen minds and healthy bodies.
“Being able to help the kids of Geneva is an amazing experience,” says Madeline Sherwood ’18, a double major in dance and sociology/anthropology, who began working at the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva as a summer intern in 2017.
Through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, HWS students like Sherwood have regularly volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club, which seeks to connect and empower the Geneva community, especially young people, to reach their full potential. For her part, Sherwood has stayed on since her internship, working with students during the afterschool program, and plans to teach a dance class there as part of her Senior Seminar.
Jackeline Matos ’19 also works at the Boys and Girls Club. An anthropology major with a minor in dance, she spends her Fridays teaching the children various dance styles, ranging from West African to Latin hip hop. Matos, who says she wishes she had been introduced to dance at an earlier age, hopes her students see the instruction as a part of their education. “This is my chance to show the kids who may have a passion for the arts that it is just as important as math or reading,” says Matos, a Theta Phi Alpha sister, who is a member of the Caribbean Student Association, First Generation Initiative and the Koshare Dance Guild.
Volunteering as Dean of Faculty for St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy in Geneva, Professor of Dance Donna Davenport oversees the Arts Academy dance program at the Boys and Girls Club’s Teen Center, which offers the successful “Power of Dance” program on Friday afternoons. In the fall, dance lessons were taught by Matos and Shaahida Samuel ’19, and this spring Ellie Cherry ’18, a double major in dance and psychology, runs the program with Matos. The students, Davenport believes, bring something special to the program because of their teaching and dancing skills, as well as their relative youth. “Shaahida and Jackie are talented dancers and teachers; they have a gift for reaching children and teens,” she says. “They engage the kids in ways that professors cannot.”
A double major in dance and education, Samuel says giving back in Geneva has been a meaningful experience. “Sharing my passion for dance with the youth has been amazing. They are intelligent and love the arts,” she says.
Leah Jacobs ’18, an arts and education major and dance and child advocacy minor, has also been able to integrate her HWS studies into her work in the community. Since the spring of 2017, she has been teaching dance and creative movement to teen students at Hillside Children’s Center, which offers care for youth and families with a wide range of emotional and behavioral challenges. The center offers mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, special education, crisis support and developmental disabilities services to children and families throughout Central and Western New York.
Jacobs leads “creative and interactive dance activities that help students learn the basics of different dance styles.” Those basics come together in a talent show, with Jacobs working with each student to develop choreography tailored to his or her interests, ensuring students are “a huge part of the creative process.”
In the fall, Kayla Malcolm ’18, a dance major and education minor, led creative movement dance sessions with children in grades K-5 at Discovery’s Playground, an HWS-run academic enrichment program that provides local children with interdisciplinary opportunities designed to enhance their inquisitiveness, creativity and confidence.
Inspired by Anne Green Gilbert’s BrainDance exercises, Malcolm has “adapted some of Gilbert’s lessons for the students that incorporate dancing, drawing, playing, creating and associating movement to other aspects of their everyday lives,” she says. “Giving them an opportunity to create allows them to access multiple intelligences and learn differently.”