When sports journalist Claudia Chang Trejos faced a difficult period in her life, an after-school ballet program helped her overcome obstacles.
Now, her daughter, Glades Middle School student Sophia Chang Trejos, 14, is following her mother, attending the after-school program at the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet in South Miami.
The program provides ballet, reading, math and etiquette classes along with access to mental health professionals. The program delivers professionally taught dance classes in multiple genres, at little or no cost to 500 students ages 5-11.
Claudia said The Children’s Trust-funded program provides a huge support for parents.
“When she started, I was going through a nasty divorce,” Claudia said. “We were broke. I had no one to help me out with Sophia, so this was a place she could go to, and go with her peers. I went to work and I had a peace of mind.”
The program delivers professionally taught dance classes in multiple genres, at little or no cost to 500 students ages 5-11.
All dance clothing, ballet shoes and tap shoes are provided free of charge. About 1,000 students are enrolled.
The program, which runs from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, also provides scholarships.
For Sophia, the program is a second home.
“Ballet is not for everybody,” said Sophia, who credits the program with her getting into the New World School of Arts, the Miami-Dade arts magnet high school, where she will start in the fall.
“You can start when you are 4 and love it, but when you grow, the technique gets harder and that’s when people quit. What I like about ballet is it’s a different way to train a person. I like the music and the way people are when you are dancing. It is like a movie.”
Aside from learning, the students perform in performances throughout the year, including “The Nutcracker.”
Director Ruth Wiesen said the program’s goal is to be a vehicle of success.
“Every now and then, I step back and I am shocked we are able to see these kids succeed and coming back to Miami,” she said. “That is the biggest thrill. They come back, settle down and act like role models and give back.”
Francine Anderson, chief of education, outreach and access for the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, said the program provides the tools for a student’s future.
“They are giving more students access to the art of dance and their recent award of being the only accredited dance program in the State of Florida gives weight to that training,” she said. “Thomas Armour Youth Ballet is truly changing the future face of dance, one child at a time.”
No matter what her future holds, Sophia said the program will always have a place in her heart.
“I plan on coming back when I am older, and teach classes to give back,” she said.
Registration for the next school year begins July 8. For information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-667-5543.