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OMYF Community Spotlight: Orlando Ballet

By Josh Cohen
July 14, 2011

ORLANDO -- There is some striking research evidence that indicates how beneficial it is for young people to be involved in some sort of artistic and musical program.

In fact, educational researchers concluded in a study that young people in arts programs are 25 percent more likely to feel satisfied with themselves, twice as likely to win an academic achievement and 31 percent more likely to say they plan to continue education after high school.

The findings don’t stop there. The Getty Education Institute for the Arts reports that students who have four years of art and music education score 59 points higher on the verbal SAT and 44 points higher in math.

Research discoveries like these are exactly why programs such as STEPS, a curriculum that provides free ballet classes to low-income, inner-city children at the Orlando Ballet School, are exceptional and admirable for kids.

Aside from the enjoyment young people have learning the art of ballet, STEPS offers an additional outlet to kids who may not have other after school options to explore.

“STEPS expands our art form, uplifts and trains children who would otherwise never have had a relationship with ballet,” said Katherine Fabian, Interim Director of Operations/School Manager for the Orlando Ballet School. “It provides skills that open doors to increased focus and discipline and a potential career path.”

A big help in the development of this program was the $50,000 grant the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund (OMYF-MFF), bestowed to STEPS.

Orlando Ballet is one of 19 Central Florida organizations that was presented grants by the OMYF-MFF as a part of the Magic’s community outreach initiative. Over the last 21 years, the OMYF has distributed more than $16 million to local non-profit community organizations. The OMYF raises community dollars annually through donations, auctions and events such as the Black Tie and Tennies Gala and the OMYF Golf Tournament with matching funds at $0.50 on the dollar provided by the McCormick Foundation.

“Art is such an important part of every child’s development,” said Orlando Magic President Alex Martins. “We are proud to be able to provide the Orlando Ballet School with a grant to assist in funding STEPS, a valuable program in both arts and education for underserved youth.”

There are many testimonials that both parents and teachers have given that emphasize how advantageous learning ballet is for their children and students. One parent, for example, said, “My child became a different person after he started studying ballet, he’s so focused now.”

“STEPS is designed to inspire children to stay in school and possibly even discover a career path,” Fabian said.

Most after-school programs such as organized sports and a wide-range of art or academic supplemental offerings require a cost, which in some cases is just simply not achievable considering certain family financial struggles.

STEPS, however, is free which opens the door to so many kids who have always wanted to be involved in a dance program.

After representatives of the Orlando Ballet School visit a few elementary schools in Orange and Seminole Counties to explain STEPS to second and third grade students each year, they elect between 50 and 60 students to join their program.

Since its inception in 1992, more than 1,000 inner-city children have received dance training through STEPS.

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