To My Arbonne Friends

Posted by Cindy Pipkin on 05/01/2007
Hello, everyone!

We just returned from our fabulous Arbonne NTC training in Las Vegas where I was awarded the Spirit of Arbonne award for our work with Life Change Ballroom. Obviously, I share that award with so many of you—all the instructors, volunteers and financial supporters who keep us moving forward. A huge “thank you” to Meloni Barkley and Jeremy Thorn (and I’m sure Stacy as well!) who I understand literally bombarded Arbonne with information about what we are doing. And, thank you to all the Vice Presidents who voted for us. This is very good press for us, we appreciate it and we know it will advance the program! We know what an incredible honor it is to receive this and we want you to know our intention is to “re-earn” this award every day-- we intend to make you proud.

I had so many people at NTC ask me about this program before the S.O.A. award was presented and I told them to hit our website for more information and I’m pretty sure I also announced it in front of all of 16,500 attendees when I received the award, although I cannot be certain because I was in another dimension when I was on stage, that’s for sure! Anyway, several of you asked if we would come to your town or state, and although we aren't planning to go outside of Oklahoma with Life Change Ballroom, if you are in another state and want to start this, I will tell you everything you need to do to get started. If you are serious, contact me with your name, e-mail address & phone # through
[email protected]. Before you do that, though, you will want to consider that you’ll need a very organized team of volunteers, time, and money. If you don’t have money, that’s ok, as long as you know how to fundraise or you or someone you know is willing to learn.

Although it was an incredible number of people, I am not at all shocked at who all approached me at NTC wanting to help and make a difference with us. I love that Arbonne’s culture is about giving back and I thank our president, Rita Davenport for teaching us this not only by “telling us”, but by showing us what that looks like with her work with Sojourner’s. I am so proud to be in Arbonne and I am so thankful that Rita Davenport is our president and mentor.

We just finished our 2nd semester in Life Change Ballroom, so our program has been running for just one short year now using ballroom dance as a mentoring medium in the 5th grades of some of our OKC public schools. I took this on because I was called by God to do it. Seriously. I watched the documentary, Mad Hot Ballroom about a man named Pierre Dulaine who put ballroom dance in the New York Public Schools and the immediate differences it made in the students’ behaviors. I watched it, thought it was interesting, but no big deal. The movie, Take the Lead, is the “Hollywood version” of that documentary. The movie alters the true story by depicting Pierre’s dance class as being held in the ‘detention class’ of a high school. Interestingly enough, I got God’s calling while watching an HBO special about the MAKING OF Take the Lead—before the movie even came out. In one scene, Pierre was telling a teenage boy that he could get/be anything he wanted in life. The boy replied, “No, only some people get what they want in life.” Pierre said, “Yes, those are the people who show up to get it.” I literally sucked all the air out of the room. “Oh, my gosh” I said to myself, “They don’t know to show up!” It’s just like Rita has always told us, “People rise to their expectations.” But, they have none. And, if their parents didn’t tell them to show up because THEY don’t believe it will make any difference either,… well, then, we’re left with nothing but generational despair and poverty.

In another scene, Pierre was trying to get the kids to enter a dance contest and they were dismissing his idea and just being really negative. In his frustration with them, he fired back, “Everyone expects NOTHING from you!” Again, I thought, it’s so true! We’re literally throwing these kids away. If people rise to their expectations and we expect nothing from them, why are we surprised that we are getting nothing? Within the next day or so, I saw Bill and Melinda Gates on TV begging us as citizens to get involved in our public schools or, they warned, they are literally going to collapse. Gates cited statistics that should blow your mind-- one is that 1/3 of America’s children are dropping out of school. This is not an inner-city statistic-- that’s across the board. The stats for inner-city schools would be closer to 50%, but we’re talking across the nation-- a full 1/3 of our children are not finishing high school. (The statistic is actually higher in Oklahoma)

I’ve passed on Mr. Gate’s message and statistics to others and I’ve gotten some interesting responses. Some have said they think it’s sad, sure, but the fact is, their kids are going to private schools, or they’re home-schooled, or some say they are happy with the public school their children attend, or their kids have already graduated, or whatever, and so basically what I hear them saying is, sad as it is, they really don’t think this situation affects them. We should also keep in mind that all these kids who are not graduating high school are basically unemployable. The chances are good that they will only be able to land minimum wage jobs and you simply cannot raise a family on a minimum wage job—and, oh yes, they are having families, sometimes even before they drop out of school. And, as we all know, desperate people do desperate things. Which brings me to another interesting statistic Bill Gates gave that day and that is that a person who does not graduate from high school is 8 times more likely to serve time in prison. They even call some of the high schools with extremely high drop out rates “feeder schools” for prisons.

So, even though we have some who don’t care so much about the dropout rate today, I believe they will care in time, and with a full 1/3 of our student population quitting school, my guess is that we’ll all care very soon. We’ll certainly care if we are robbed at gunpoint. We’ll care if our home is burglarized, we’ll care if our car is taken from us, and/or we’ll care when our identity is stolen. Or, we may end up caring because these things happen to our parents, our children, or one of our friends. And, as Bill Gates says, we should also care that with the lack of education our youth is receiving, we may not be able to compete as a nation.

With Life Change Ballroom, we are working in the elementary schools and we cannot believe how much mentoring is needed—we can’t even imagine what it’s like in middle and high school (although we are going to find out soon enough- we are going to take LCB into both a middle school and an alternative high school as a test this next semester!). Our experience in the OKC public schools this past year has been that the teachers and principals are AMAZING! They truly care for these kids and although incredibly underpaid, they are so involved and so engaged. But, still there are so many behavioral/social problems. It is obvious to even the untrained eye that the home life for many of these children is much less than stable. And, even after only 24 weeks in the schools, I can tell you stories that will curl your hair, bring you to tears, and some that will bring you to your knees.

We see angry little boys and mean little girls. Not all of them, obviously, but I want us to consider those who are. I can’t help but think about them growing up into angry, mean adults and raising their own angry children. We also see kids who think it’s cool to be dumb and make fun of kids who get good grades (honestly, I don’t believe they really believe this, they are too smart, but for some reason it’s “cool” to act this way). There’s so much work to be done, so many attitudes to change, so many manners and coping skills to impart and so many paradigm shifts to make. I don’t think our principals and teachers and the parents who DO care can climb this mountain alone. To all our principals and teacher friends out there, you have our utmost respect. We applaud what you do everyday.

Speaking of doing it every day, I also want you to know about a special lady named Sally Goin. She goes to Shidler Elementary school (one of our LCB schools) EVERY DAY. Sally is a retired high school teacher who runs her own ministry, Inner City Faith Works. Shidler Elementary is located in the neighborhood with the highest crime rate and highest poverty rate in Oklahoma City. Sally is a real hero—she and her assistant Jace Kirk (also a hero in my book!) intervene in the lives of these young children on a daily basis and really make an amazing, many times critical difference. They are a small, but very effective ministry and they can use all the monetary help they can get and I promise you, the money goes to the direct benefit of these children! Sally’s ministry is a non-profit 501(c)3 if you are interested in donating.

As most of you know, we are so incredibly blessed to have some men of the Oklahoma Army National Guard working with Life Change Ballroom. Led by SFC Dennis Squires (DM Heather Squires’ husband), these men have trained and now volunteer as dance instructors/mentors for us. Our semester just ended and Dennis told me last Thursday that he was really surprised at how emotional he got when he had to tell the kids goodbye on the last day of class. “Especially”, he said, “this one little girl who grabbed me so tight and said, “I don’t want you to go—you’re the closest thing to a dad I’ve ever had!”” (I told you I could bring you to tears!)

I honestly think mentoring is a HUGE answer for our children in the public schools. Life Change Ballroom is a GREAT mentoring program, but most of you who would like to make a difference would say to me, “I don’t have the time or money to start a program like that!” Here’s the good news—can you carve out one or two hours/week you could devote to tutoring one of these kids? This is EXACTLY where the mentoring begins-- you will be working your own program, and all you have to do is help them with their reading, spelling, math, etc., all while being a person of integrity with high moral standards and character. I promise you all of those morals will shine through while you simply spend time with them. While helping them with their school work you will also teach them to dream, to hope for more, and teach them to ask for help when they need it (so many won’t-- Sally taught me this). You teach them about choices and consequences. You model. You mentor. You speak truth to them and speak life into them.

For those of you who said, “I want to help; what can I do?” this is it. Regardless of what city or state you live in, please call a school to make arrangements to start tutoring a child next September when school starts. If you are in OKC and you want me to help you find a school, I will be GLAD to hook you up!! I know a lot of you will answer this call because I know the character of Arbonne’s people, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I believe when you do this you will help to change the direction of this nation.

As a mentoring program, LCB has incredible testimonies- one principal states that since we came into his school, they have had NO 5th grade referrals this year. Another assistant principal of two of our schools tells us she spent her entire days last year doing 5th grade sexual harassment disciplines and that, because of our program, this year she’s had to do NONE. She also said the 5th grade “bullying” had all but stopped. These are incredible testimonies and our mentoring program is done in a GROUP setting, so I know we can do even more with one-on-one time with these kids.

I also know the vast majority of you reading this are women and, I want to add this… Women are so awesome!!! They always FLOCK to help when it comes to children’s causes. And, many times they go above and beyond—great example: Katie Emerick and Patty Bingham just spent TWELVE HOURS in Brick Town Stadium here in OKC freezing to death waiting to audition for the game show ‘Deal or No Deal’ for the chance to play on behalf of the kids of Life Change Ballroom. These amazing and committed women will do anything and everything to help these kids. As women, dance instructors, and volunteers, I love and appreciate every single thing they bring to our program!!! The young girls in our schools have EXCEPTIONAL role models in Katie and Patty.

However, no matter what we do or how hard we try, we women can never be role models for these young men. We can tell them how to become great men, but we can never show them. I want to sound the alarm for more GREAT MEN to become tutors/mentors. Many, if not most of these angry little boys have no fathers at home. They are raised by their mother or grandmother and their teachers and principals are many times women as well. The women in their lives may be the ‘best of the best’ women, but again, they aren’t able to model how to be a man. We need more heroes like SFC Dennis Squires, Sgt. George Shafer, PFC Roy Newnam, Jose Ramirez, and Jace Kirk to show them what integrity means, model character for them, and demonstrate things like what it means to be a real man, a man of your word, and a man of honor.

So, my prayer is that you’ll not only decide to tutor/mentor a child yourself, but I also want you to ask the most incredible man in your life to do the same. This may be your dad, your brother, your husband, your boyfriend, or just a friend, but please ask the man, or men, who you believe possess the honor, character and integrity that you’d like to see young boys achieve and grow up with to step up and be a mentor. We need great men who are willing to lead our young boys.

If you want to help but you work full-time, be sure to ask your employer if you can take off 1 or 2 hours/week for this because some companies will let you off with pay to do this type of community service- so, be sure to ASK before you decide you can’t do it just because you work. If they won’t let you take the time off, see if you can change your lunch hour to do it because, I promise, you will be the one who ultimately benefits from this!

If you’re thinking, “Oh, Cindy, seriously, I don’t believe that spending 1 to 2 hours/week tutoring with some kid is going to make any kind of a dent in this societal problem”, here’s the thing— you just couldn’t be more wrong. Dennis Squires could not have spent more than 24 collective hours with that little girl before he became a father figure to her. 24 hours!!! And his time with her was spent in a GROUP mentoring setting. Again, imagine the power of one-on-one mentoring time with that little girl. And you know our little girls need as much time with these great men as the boys do. So many of these little girls are suffering with abandonment issues and we all know that leads to self-esteem and relationship problems. One thing I know for sure-- that little girl will never forget Sgt. Squires and I thank God she got to meet and spend time with him so she knows what a great man looks like. When she picks a boyfriend or decides to marry, I hope she’ll look for the qualities she saw in Dennis.

So that’s my request. If you’re one who asked me this past week, “How can I help?”, now you know. Get yourself set up with a student to tutor— and, please be sure to work with the same student each week. If you can get to an inner-city school for this, you’ll be so glad you did. If, logistically, you need to stay closer to home—don’t worry, any school in any neighborhood has a child in need that you can help—I don’t care how ‘rich’ his parents are! And, PLEASE work HARD to find a wonderful man (or men), full of honor, integrity and character and make him understand how much we need his influence on our youth. I think this is a huge ‘missing link’.

I know this may not be THE ANSWER to our problems, but I believe it certainly is AN ANSWER! My friend, Meloni Barkley always says, one person can absolutely make a difference, but when we link arms and work together with the same goal in mind, we can change the world. I’ll settle for a nation. I really think we can make a difference. I hope you’ll challenge everyone you know to become involved in this campaign. Let’s just see if we can put the light back in some of those children’s eyes. I want them to know to show up. And, I want them to know HOW to show up.

I love the heart of Arbonne. I love that our spirit is to give back. If you take me up on this challenge, please let me know that you did by writing to
[email protected] I’d love to hear from you and I may start a list to see where all we are working across the country!

For those of you who asked about making a monetary donation to Life Change Ballroom:
We are a non-profit 501(c)3, so all donations are tax deductible. We appreciate any donation, regardless of the amount. One thing I am looking for is corporate (or private) sponsors for specific schools. It costs $5,000/year to put our program into a school for the year (two12-week semesters). I have some sponsors who pay that amount out monthly ($417/mo.), some who pay by semester, and some who want to pay it all at once. We are obviously very flexible with that— we just want the sponsor to have their own specific school to cheer on and take pride in. We have several Arbonne VPs who sponsor entire schools and I THANK YOU! I won’t mention any names, but one ENVP has committed to sponsoring 2 schools per year and the incredible thing about that is she doesn’t even live in my city! She’s a former inner city school teacher though and even though she’s moved on from teaching to Arbonne; her heart is obviously still with the kids.

We do not have any paid employees at LCB. The $5,000 we charge is used to pay our dance instructors (the only people in our program who receive compensation), and to buy dance clothes (which double as street clothes that the kids can keep) and for other things that directly benefit the children. A couple of weeks ago, for example, we took new shoes to all of the 5th graders in 3 of our schools. At the last school where we delivered shoes, several of the kids were just fascinated that there was tissue paper in the toes of the shoes. It was only after so many of them had acted so surprised that it dawned on me. They had never had new shoes before.

I thank God He lets me even work in this program. I am humbled.

Love to you all!

Cindy Pipkin
Executive National Vice President
Independent Consultant, Arbonne International
and Founder and Director, Life Change Ballroom