Staff and residents at the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center (SWOJC) recently enjoyed a performance by Life Change Ballroom at the Manitou facility.
Life Change Ballroom is a non-profit organization located in Oklahoma City. Founded in 2006 by Cindy Pipkin, the group uses ballroom dancing as a tool to teach at-risk youth teamwork, sportsmanship, social awareness, confidence, self-esteem, goal-setting, the value of hard work, etiquette, trust and mutual respect.
“We are raising our expectations of these children and we believe when we expect more, they will produce more. We want to teach them to be more, do more and have more so that they can GIVE more,” Pipkin explained.
One young man at the facility, J’Den M. was previously involved with the group. Pipkin has stayed in contact with him and wanted to offer support during his time at SWOJC. Over the summer, Pipkin began having conversations with the staff at SWOJC regarding visiting the facility and showing J’Den how much the group misses him and wants the best for him.
Twelve teenage dancers, Cindy Pipkin and dance instructor Tami Bramel visited SWOJC on Nov. 4. The dancers performed a twelve minute routine for approximately thirty residents and accompanying staff. Following the performance, dancers Santana Randle and Christian Robinson took turns giving short speeches. Randle and Robinson shared their life stories about the struggles they had growing up in neighborhoods with heavy gang activity. Both speakers highlighted choices that they had made and expressed gratitude for Life Change Ballroom and the positive influence it had on them finishing high school. Robinson shared that he is now on staff with the organization and it challenges him to make good decisions every day.
Randle and Robinson concluded their talks by encouraging the residents that being at SWOJC was an opportunity to make different choices. “I don’t know you all and I don’t know your stories,” Randle said. “But I love you all and want you to make better choices. Do it for your families. And, if you don’t have family, do it for your friends. You have people out there that care about you.”
After the speeches, the group performed two more songs. The songs were from previously used routines which enabled J’Den to join the group and dance. He received exuberant applause from the residents, staff and his family members who attended the assembly.
Dance instructor Tami Bramel then worked with five young men from SWOJC to teach them basic salsa steps. Dancers from the group paired up with the resident volunteers to learn a simple salsa routine to music.
Pipkin commented that SWOJC staff “had very caring attitudes towards all the young men and wanted successful transitions for them all.” After performing at SWOJC, Pipkin noted that the group appreciated that staff “took this time have us come down and help J’Den, but also, hopefully, demonstrating to all the young men that there are more positive ways of spending their time.”
For more information about Life Change Ballroom, visit www.lifechangeballroom.com.
For more information about the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center and how you can become involved, call Volunteer Services Specialist Maggie Dawson at 580-397-2615.