By Katherine Hester
When Tiffany Mingo, Director of Dance at Maynard H. Jackson’s Fine Arts and Media Communications Academy, one of the school’s three Small Learning Communities, talks about her dance students, her enthusiasm is palpable. “These kids are talented,” she says with understandable pride. “Our program has really grown and we have the backing of professional community organizations.”
This youthful talent and the community partnerships that nurture it will be showcased at a series of performances at Maynard H. Jackson High School this spring. The inaugural performance of the school’s select Dance Company takes place on April 21, 22 and 23 at 7pm. On Saturday, May 14 at 3pm, neighborhood middle and elementary school students participating in an innovative pilot series of dance classes taught by MHJHS students will not only show off the moves they’ve learned — they’ll have a chance to see the youthful instructors who’ve mentored them in action as well.
Community and collaboration are watchwords for MHJHS’s Dance Program. The program took off seven years ago — when Maynard H. Jackson High School was still known as Southside — with a single class made possible though a grant from General Electric. Since then, community partnerships and the creation of Small Learning Communities within each of City of Atlanta’s high schools have made the program an integral part of the school curriculum. Partnerships with Atlanta Ballet and neighborhood dance studio Dance411 make scholarships available to young dancers. The Atlanta Ballet makes it possible for adjunct faculty like Roscoe Sales — an Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education instructor who’ll also supply choreography for the Company’s inaugural performance as well — to teach at the school.
In fact, the school’s partnership with The Creative Spark Foundation, the nonprofit arts education arm of AREA (Atlanta’s Resource for Entertainment and Arts), has been the catalyst for the dance classes high school students are teaching at our neighborhood middle and elementary schools. Through Ballet, Modern, and Jazz (with a smattering of Hip-Hop thrown in to keep interest high), MHJHS students Cameron Tobias, Alexus Montalvo, Jennifer Thach, Tyheisha Collier, Zenia Wilson, Ebony Hayes, Natasha Atchison, Santee Ball, Jasmine Johnson, and Demetrius Reliford are forging relationships with younger dancers.
“Starting training at a younger age gives a bigger impact,” Tiffany Mingo points out, noting that it’s tough for young dancers to participate in events like the statewide Governor’s Honor’s Program if they aren’t exposed to dance fundamentals before they reach ninth grade.
The arts-based service learning program sending MHJHS dancers to teach at area schools creates a win-win situation. It allows students to earn some of the 75 hours of community service required of them for graduation from MHJHS. It also gives younger students at the high school’s feeder schools — this spring, classes were offered at Coan, King, and Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School middle schools and at Burgess-Peterson Elementary — the opportunity to develop connections with older teenagers, so that when they arrive at Maynard Jackson they’ll already have a colleague or mentor. In addition, through teaching younger children, high school dancers train to be dance instructors and are empowered to serve as positive role models.
The Inaugural Presentation of the MHJHS Company takes place April 21-23 at 7:00pm at the MHJHS auditorium. Tickets are $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for children.
The MHJHS/Creative Spark Foundation Showcase is May 14 at 3:00pm in the MHJHS auditorium. Admission is free.
What’s a Small Learning Community? Where is Maynard H. Jackson High School? How can I learn more about the high school located in the heart of NPU-W?
Maynard H. Jackson High School is located at 801 Glenwood Avenue, a stone’s throw from historic Grant Park and within walking distance of the East Atlanta Village commercial district. Its current Small Learning Communities (SLCs) are designed to prepare students to meet the challenges of the 21st Century through flexible design. SLCs include Fine Arts & Media Communications, Information Technology, and Early College for Engineering. MHJHS is currently in the application process for the International Baccalaureate Programme. Its current feeder schools are Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Martin L. King Jr. Middle School, Sammye E. Coan Middle School, Burgess-Peterson Elementary School, Charles R. Drew Charter School, Ed S. Cook Elementary School, Parkside Elementary School, Paul L. Dunbar Elementary School, and Whitefoord Elementary School.
SEACS (Southeast Atlanta Communities for Schools) was founded in 2010 to bring together parents, policy makers and community members within the Maynard Jackson High School cluster of APS schools to encourage and support safe, creative, quality educational opportunities in southeast Atlanta. For more information, please visit http://seacs.weebly.com.
Dance Performances at M.H. Jackson High School This Spring
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