Marin Students Make a Difference Through Dance

Eighth-graders from Kent Middle School reach out to Marin’s underserved children.

A Marin ballet program created for low-income kids is more than just pirouettes and arabesques.

Four Kent Middle School eighth-graders—Lauren Fish, Hanna Sweet, Emily Cerf and Lily Gaudin—have partnered with Performing Stars of Marin and Stapleton School for the Performing Arts to provide ballet classes for a group of children from Marin City and the Canal Area of San Rafael.

The students developed the program as their “Social Action” project.

“These children would not have this opportunity without programs like what the students and their partner Stapleton provide,” said Felecia Gaston, executive director of Performing Stars of Marin. “It is their way of giving back.”

The project originated with the students’ love for dance and the idea of teaching dance to children who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance. They sought out a partnership with Performing Stars of Marin and met Gaston, who organized a group of eight energetic and excited kindergarteners to attend.

The middle school students worked with Virginia Stapleton, artistic director and founder of Stapleton School for the Performing Arts in San Anselmo, to secure studio space and develop lesson plans for the classes.

In addition, the girls recruited two high school dancers, Emma Burgis from Redwood and Amanda Nordstrom from Drake High who agreed to help the Kent students with the classes.

“I really applaud my students for wanting to do something special,” Stapleton said. “This project truly fits in with Stapleton’s commitment and outreach to make dance available to all children.”

In addition to planning and implementing the class, the students have held numerous bake sales to raise the funds needed for the young dancers’ chaperones and transportation from Marin City. They also held a leotard drive to gather appropriate dancing attire for the enthusiastic participants. 

Through their efforts, the middle-schoolers have managed to bring together youth of all ages and from across the county for a memorable experience. When asked what they like most about this project, the four students said, practically in unison “Being able to teach the girls ballet and watching them have fun.”

A recital was staged Thursday at the Manzanita Children’s Center.

“It was really something,” reported Nancy Vernon, aide to County Supervisor Katie Rice. “Lots of kids of all ages and adults watching these little ballerinas who were very proud and giggly.”

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