In every aspect of her work as a dance coach at ARISE Academy you can see the strategies Chanice learned at the Up2Us Sports training. One example of this is helping kids who struggle to behave by giving them opportunities to matter. “One of [my] students likes to talk back, he likes to talk the entire class so I would have him be the director. He would be standing next to me and I would give him something to do and he would help the other students,” she explained. “Instead of the behavior causing disruptions, they were helping each other. They were learning how to [put] what people would call disruptive behavior to good use.”
Creating opportunities to matter is just one of many approaches that Chanice uses on a regular basis to leverage dance to develop skills in her students that are applicable well beyond the dance floor. Using dance as a powerful tool for youth development is important to Chanice because of the role dance has played in her own life.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Chanice attended Lusher Charter School while growing up. Through the school, Chanice had the opportunity to participate in theatre in addition to running track and playing basketball. While she enjoyed all of these activities, it was dance that she became most passionate about. She was exposed to dance through the school’s curriculum and went well beyond her dance classes, training at the New Orleans Ballet Association and graduating with a degree in dance from Hollins University in Virginia.
While teaching dance was never one of Chanice’s goals, she possesses a wealth of dance knowledge and she would often act as a teacher to her younger brother when they were growing up: teaching him his ABC’s and how to multiply. Because of this, it is no surprise that upon returning to New Orleans following her graduation she began teaching dance. After working in after school programs for about a year, she was hired to be a dance coach and mentor through Up2Us Sports at a non-profit organization called Dancing Grounds. Dancing Grounds strives to bring accessible dance programming to New Orleans and use dance as a way to promote health and wellness, social justice, and empower youth to create positive change in their communities.
Chanice is well equipped to carry out the mission of Dancing Grounds because of the Up2Us Sports training she received. Every coach placed by Up2Us Sports receives over 30 hours of training in trauma-sensitive approaches to coaching. The training helps prepare coaches to work with young people who experience the daily stresses of poverty and violence and empowers them to be positive adult role models in the lives of the youth they work with.
Chanice has embraced the tenets of the Up2Us Sports training and embodies what it means to be a coach focused on positive youth development. Whether she is using praise that labels student’s positive behavior – thus reinforcing this behavior in a student’s mind – or creating a safe environment that allows kids to make mistakes, she wants to see her students grow and develop. “If you come into the class and you are not comfortable with the space, be comfortable with being uncomfortable because in that moment is where I see, as a teacher, the most growth,” she said, thinking about how she wants to inspire her students to reach their potential.
Dance, like all sports, has a unique power to positively impact the lives of children, especially those who have faced difficult upbringings. Chanice understands her responsibility as a mentor and the important role she plays in the lives of the kids that she coaches. “I’m trying to figure out ways to build their confidence as young kids moving through the world, trying to figure out and exploring through dance,” she said.