After the Independent highlighted the work of a public school teacher who is throwing all of her energy into teaching dance while “fighting very hard not to die” from a terminal illness, readers poured in donations.
The teacher, Mnikesa Whitaker, runs BalletHaven, a free dance program for girls at Fair Haven School. The Independent featured her life and work in a March 29 story, which was republished on the front cover of Inner-City News. After the story came out, supporters sent in a total of $3,657, helping Whitaker reach a $5,000 fundraising goal she set 16 months ago.
“Thank you to our donors!!!! You are CHANGING lives!!!!,” she wrote on her BalletHaven blog.
The donations went to help girls like 8th-graders Danayit Mekennon and Condet “Fifi” Faro (pictured). Condet, of Guinea, is a “budding choreographer” and Danayit, of Ethiopia, is “a future astronaut,” Whitaker reported. They are pictured while auditioning for a competitive dance program at the Educational Center for the Arts, a high school program they hope to join next year.
Whitaker sent in the following report:
Dance is an expensive art form, especially as we’ve grown from 60 interested girls last year to over 90 this year! Thirty-five girls were selected as BalletHaven members after this year’s application and audition process. As the program prepares to send several of our Founding BalletHaven Members to high school, we want to financially position ourselves to sustain the following:
· fund the BalletHaven Hoodie and dance bag (earned for hard-work after a dancer’s FIRST year)
· fund the BalletHaven Sweatpants (earned for hard-work after a dancer’s SECOND year)
· building up our BalletHaven “dance closet” with leotards, leggings, dresses and other pieces we will need for performances and classes…
· tickets for one live theatre performance a year
· funds to send some of our hardest-working dancers to summer dance conventions and workshops and to arts high schools with a small “care package” of leotards, tights and simple clothing to get their dance career started
Follow her dancers’ progress at BalletHaven’s blog.