Guest blog from Jodi, one of our pilot Project Leaders

Jodi Tatum was one of our pilot Project Leaders.  She is a 23-year old trained dancer who studied philosophy at Fordham University.  She started a project that used dance and choreography to help school children develop confidence and creativity. You can check out her project page here: http://pilot.pandoprojects.org/joditatum.  You can also see her dancing in our promo video!  http://vimeo.com/25376921 (password: moolena)  Thanks for the guest blog, Jodi.  :)

Three weeks ago, the kids at Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School performed their first dance piece. Whether or not they had previous had any dance experience, none of them came in having choreographed before. So when they’re parents came, and the lights went up, I held my breath in nervous anticipation. I knew they could do it, but I hoped that they knew they could, as well. The performance ended with applause and shouts. The best reward for me, though, was seeing the smiles on their faces when they realized what I had known all along: that they are creative and that with confidence, overwhelming goals are achievable.

I came to Pando Projects with the idea of this project because after spending time as a camp counselor in Florida and with students in Namibia, I was confronted by poor academic results from smart kids. I talked to these kids and they were passionate, intelligent kids, but they lacked confidence. They looked up to famous rappers, famous sports players, and famous actors. They thought that social mobility could only be achieved by luck or with money. Creativity seemed to die quickly once this kind of hopelessness set in.

Pando Projects gave these kids a forum to exercise their creativity, to test their strength, and to challenge themselves. My favorite moments involved seeing them begin to understand that movements, as an expression of their “selves”, could not be wrong like their solutions to math problems. With greater freedom they approached their solos and with greater confidence they took to mastering combinations I gave them. The performance at the end gave them a focused collective goal and as the weeks progressed, I saw them more cooperative, helpful, and kind to one another.

Practicing the dance they created as part of Jodi's project

Everyone has a skill set to offer others. I challenge you to consider leveraging your gifts for the community. There is a misconception that changing the world involves large scaled efforts that affect thousands of people, but the truth is that each individual is worth the effort. What you do for one person will affect others because humans are relational beings, and as such, will share what they experience with those around them. Like the Pando root system, we become connected to the other project leaders and to those we serve who then serve us, as well, until the whole organism is benefited.

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About Milena Arciszewski

I'm the Founder of PandoProjects, which empowers people to step up as leaders and develop innovative, local solutions to the problems in their communities. You can reach me at milena@pandoprojects.org or follow me on twitter: @pandoprojects.
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