Late last year, MindLeaps launched a new girls program with the support of American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland. This program was implemented with the aim of serving girls at-risk in Kigali. Like the boys at MindLeaps, classes of 15 kids at a time are recruited. Fifteen girls were received in the program with a warm welcome from Misty. This also marked a first for Misty herself – her first time to Africa!
Our girls were so excited to hear a superstar talk to them and share life lessons. Misty gave them a short summary of her long path to become the first female African-American principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. Misty told the girls that she is still dancing, and through her experiences, she understands how dance can change one’s life and help one to follow his or her dreams. She said that dance teaches discipline, perseverance, teamwork, and confidence. She also added that dance will help young people believe they are worth something. As a formerly underprivileged girl, she proved that hard work and perseverance produce results.
Now, there is no doubt that Misty inspired all these young girls at MindLeaps. Some told me that they are working hard to become “a future Misty”. (They are still talking about her as if she left Rwanda just yesterday.) Girls cried when she left and asked when she would come back. Before she left, she told the girls that she had an amazing experience in Rwanda, and she was so astonished to see the great effort made by the country to rise from the ashes. It was good to visit a country that is known to promote women.
MindLeaps now counts 30 girls who attend dance, IT and English classes on a daily basis. Their attendance is very good, and they are eager to learn and change. MindLeaps is happy to be working to provide an educational model that will reach and support more vulnerable girls, helping them to leap forward in life.
Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for MindLeaps. He is a former contemporary dancer and assists with the program in Guinea as well.