Motivated by Christ’s love, Rejoice School of Ballet empowers youth to realize their potential by training, nurturing and celebrating dancers from diverse racial, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. This year Rejoice celebrates its 15th year and more than 1,000 students who have been able to receive an excellent dance education in an environment focused on diversity and Christian formation.
Above is the mission statement and heart of the nonprofit I have had the privilege of volunteering at as a part of my service year internship. I couldn’t be more glad that God led me to Rejoice. Each week I run the music for ballet classes on Monday nights, and I have also been able to work directly with the PR and Marketing coordinator, Jo Ellen Weedman. What a dream! I have learned so much about not only nonprofits and fundraising, but about a true example of a tight-knit community that thrives on relationships, love and encouragement.
Patricia Cross had the idea for Rejoice in 1993, feeling called to offer classical training to children who couldn’t afford it, knowing the impact that dance can have on a child’s life. Rejoice offers so much more than just becoming a good dancer. Dance teaches students discipline, self-confidence, a healthy work ethic, exercise and the knowledge that they can excel at whatever they set their mind to.
In 1999, Rejoice School of Ballet was born as a non-profit organization, and in the fall of 2000, 14 students walked in the door to a ballet school that offers excellent training to every student, no matter their ability to pay.
All dancers at Rejoice pay on an income-based sliding scale. Around 80 percent of students pay $17 a month for classes, dancewear and costumes.
Rejoice School of Ballet By the Numbers:
- 84 percent from low-income families, as defined by federal poverty standards.
- 61 percent African American or African
- 28 percent Caucasian
- 6 percent Bi-racial
- 5 percent Latino
Jo Ellen, my mentor and mother of 4 girls (2 of whom dance at Rejoice), says that Rejoice has always been important to her family and the community because of the excellent training the studio offers to families who otherwise could not afford it. “I think recently with such terrible news all around the country of racial tension and violence that Rejoice’s mission to create art in a diverse environment is more important than ever,” she said.
As a part of my volunteer position and internship, I had the honor of assisting with a fundraiser luncheon to educate potential donors about Rejoice’s story. My part was small- just a simple slideshow video that played while guests ate. However, the best part was watching the speakers of the program talk about how Rejoice has impacted their lives and their families.
First, Founder Patricia spoke about her passion for the art of dance and the ministry of providing this art to the community. One of the student’s mothers spoke next about the love and trust she has for Rejoice to drop her babies off at class three times a week. She mentioned the sacrifices she makes to ensure her daughters get the dance experience she was never able to have as a girl, and how Rejoice has made that possible. Her daughters even talk about opening their own studio some day.
American Ballet Certified Faculty Gerald Watson, spoke next about starting dance at the age of 13, and although he has accumulated an impressive dancer’s resume as a choreographer, director and apprentice at the Nashville Ballet, he was called to teach. It is his purpose in life to help his students with their passions and to find their own callings in life. Finally, Remi, the student who will actually be dancing the part of Cinderella in the upcoming show in February, spoke about how through Rejoice, she has gained a confidence she never knew she had, she has felt a love from her teachers and peers she hasn’t known before and how much her faith in God has grown. Aka, Haley cried at that luncheon.
I thought I had already been convinced of how great this small little studio was, but it wasn’t until I heard first-hand testimonies that I was genuinely moved. Trust me when I say, this place is making a difference in the world.
Today is “Giving Tuesday.” If you are able, consider giving $15 to this important organization for their 15th year! You can donate here.
“Rejoice is such a loving community of people who come from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life. Patricia and her teaching staff have created a rigorous and excellent ballet school that also encourages dancers to take care of themselves and others. They work each day to bring out the greatness that is in every one of our students.” -Jo Ellen Weedman