Written by Lindsay Hall, AmeriCorps Member proudly serving on the Albemarle Foundation Team at Merrydale Elementary School. 

One of the most rewarding things about service with City Year is the many opportunities to incorporate individual passions into service to others. So far, fellow AmeriCorps members have shared their passion for poetry, art, and music. This year, Ayanna Humphrey is sharing her love of dance with the students of Merrydale Elementary through Jaguar D.I.V.A.S. (Divine, Innovative, Virtuous, Angels).

In the minutes it takes to complete dismissal at the end of the school day, chaos threatens to overtake the halls of Merrydale. Students walk as quickly as they can, barely resisting the urge to sprint to the freedom of the outdoors. Teachers, taxed from the effort of a long school day, gladly wave the students out the door. As the dust settles, the Jaguar D.I.V.A.S. emerge, and everyone pauses to watch.

For an hour and a half at the end of the day the people of Merrydale are treated to a display of music and dance. Students slow down as they walk past the dancers, eyes fixed on the girls moving in formation. Teachers peer out of their classrooms, taking a moment to enjoy the show. Some even join in, doing a little dance as they walk down the hallway.

Performing gives girls the chance to show their creative side, take center stage in their own school, and show off a little bit. Still, there’s more to this group of girls than great music and even better moves. Coach Ayanna reminds the girls how to treat others with compassion, to support their friends, and to appreciate what makes each of them unique. The after school program allows the girls to practice these behaviors in a fun and creative environment.

Coach Ayanna has also encouraged all the Jaguar D.I.V.A.S. to develop a sense of accomplishment and to practice leadership skills. Recent auditions for captain encouraged the dancers to challenge themselves by performing for a group they want to impress the most - each other. The new captain, DaNijah, was excited to have a chance to be a role model for her fellow dancers and to help prepare for the Black History Month assembly at the end of the month. But, she has a simple reason for dancing: it is fun.

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