Her instructors entered a Title 1 school of primarily students with low morale, depleted self-esteem and deficient behavior.  It was extremely difficult for me, as a  teacher, to consent to her instructors handling the discipline in the class when I saw  students out of control.  I quickly became the student as I watched the dance instructors slowly acquire control of the class, win their respect and teach ballroom  dancing.  Now I see students gaining in self-confidence, esteem, morale and a sense of accomplishment.  They are energized about dance class.  This energy overflows into the classroom.  Students start talking about dance on Friday morning even though dance is at the end of the day.  Some of my students plead to practice during our school day which we cannot do nor do we have time.  I was reluctant to give up  valuable instruction time.  

They are now willing to forsake recess for dance practice. This dance program is beyond description and expressions.  It is a program you must experience; you must see the alpha and the omega to absorb the multiplicity of learning by my students.  One of our staff members was watching the class last  Friday.  She had not seen the class since the first week and admitted she was  reluctant to stay.  She was shocked.  Her commentary to me was something similar  to, “Are these really our kids?”

Gary Hoefken
5th Grade Teacher
North Highlands Elementary

My name is Melodee Simons and I am the Office Clerk and Editor for the yearbook. Last year was our first year to have Ballroom Dancing. Our students were shy and very uncomfortable dancing with the opposite sex. With the help of Mrs. Waterman and Mr. Ramirez all the students lost this scary feeling. I watched these students change from their sloppy acting and don’t care attitude to the most wonderful, best dressed, ladies and gentlemen in the short time they were working with these students. These students to this day still tuck in their shirts; they walk tall and carry themselves very well. The attitudes were gone and smiles came on their faces. Their grades also improved too. All the students really liked working with Mrs. Waterman and Mr. Ramirez. They come into our school and the 5th and 6th grade students are glad to see them. This year my own grandson has been in their class. He loves learning all the steps and has learned to dance with his Mom. He wears a belt and tucks in his shirt every day. He walks taller and is very respectful to me and his Mom. I very proud to know Mrs. Waterman and Mr. Ramirez and to be able to call them a friend. I would recommend this problem to whoever would like to change the lives of their students and have fun doing it. Thank you for letting us be a part of this program.

Melodee Simons
Office Clerk
Ridgeview Elementary

Earlier this month I was asked to choose a student for the May Character Trait which was “Responsibility”.  As you know, in 5th grade and an average age of 11, there are precious few who carry that quality!  However, it made me really look at which students I could nominate and I chose Synia.  I also realized that had this trait been portrayed earlier in the year she would not have qualified for it.  Nevertheless, the change I have seen in her since becoming a part of Life Change Ballroom has been just that… Life Changing.  She has become a new student and her creativity is a catalyst for so many other changes in her. Her reading scores have shot from 4.7 to 6.6, her academic grades in Math, ELA, Science and Social Studies have increased from 70’s to high 80’s and 90’s.  While I know it takes a village to raise our kids, Life Change Ballroom is a significant force in this process and more personally in the life of this young lady. For years, I have seen the work your program has done in the lives of our kids, and I am sorry to say I have never formally written to you to tell you this.  So, while you hear specifically about this young lady, I am thankful for the countless others you have guided in their life journey!

Heather Meldrum
Stanley Hupfeld Academy

BAM! and dancing... Belonging, Affirmation, Meaning. The 3 most important tools a leader, or anyone else for that matter, can use to influence others. My wife and I recently attended a Life Change finals competition. Life Change is a local organization that works with 5th graders in mostly inner city schools building their characters, growing self- and other- respect by teaching them ball room dancing - salsa, meringue, fox trot et al. That's right, dancing. And 5th graders. Often the girls are budding women a half foot taller than their boy partners whose clothes don't ever look like they quite fit and who also seem to find it hard or even repulsive to put their hands on a girl's waist. Thank you Jesus for innocence. The auditorium was packed, and rowdy. There were parents, families, friends and teachers holding up signs for their schools and their precious kids. Yelling encouragement, clapping, whistling. They thought their kids could see them, hear them. Maybe they could. It didn't matter. The performers either had grins and smiles of unembarrassed joy on their faces or intense concentration.  They were literally on stage and loving it. Life Change gives kids a sense of Belonging. They are doing something together, a shared experience all guided by a volunteer who believes they can learn and grow and get something they currently don't have.  What a gift. Life Change gives kids an opportunity for Affirmation. Sitting in the audience, whistling and clapping for kids I have never seen and don't know. Who was affirming whom? Life Change gives kids Meaning. Well duh.  Read the two paragraphs above.  You know it's meaningful to the kids AND their parents, families and friends. Just look at their faces. Life Change is true to their name.  And it's pretty simple tools they use. It will work in your organization, in your family, in your relationships.

Michael Smith
Robinet Smith Foundation

I just wanted to tell you that we did our own little dance competition last Friday at Shidler with the 4th & 5th grade—we had trophies, we had girls do hair and makeup, my neighbor made skirts and cummerbunds for the boys; and I just want to tell you it did more for our community than I think anything we’ve ever done! I’ve never seen parents so proud and so pleased and I’ve never seen our kids so proud and pleased-- and they just did a remarkable job. Thank you so much for letting us be a part of your program! Jose and Katie are amazing. We’ve just seen Jose blossom with our kids and really start to have fun with them. Katie was a little more geared that way from the beginning but we’ve just enjoyed knowing them and it’s just been one of the most positive things we’ve ever done, so thank you and we’re looking forward to next year!

Sandy Goin
Inner City Faithworks

“D” was a boy who was new to Britton this year.  At first, he would hide in the bathroom during ballroom.  Miss Katie worked with him and soon he was the best male dancer in the class.  He took his leadership role seriously and was always willing to help others.  You could observe a noted physical change in the way he carried himself.  Before Life Change Ballroom, he was slouched over, but now he carries himself like a proud young man—head up, shoulders back and a confident walk.  As his art teacher, I can honestly say his artwork has drastically improved! I also saw a huge change in one of our girls.  She was never a discipline problem, just painfully shy and reserved.  Now she has much more confidence and has many more friends.  When she dances, her face beams with the knowledge that she is a talented and beautiful young lady. Personally, I have loved the connection I have been able to make with my students because of Life Change Ballroom.  I have never felt closer to a fifth grade class!  Thank you!

Allison Harris
Art Teacher
Britton Elementary

Last Friday, Heronville was making up a Ballroom session, another class that had never seen Ballroom before was invited to participate. There was one young man that was especially excited and wanted to give it a try. This student is very smart and has potential of being a real leader but there had been a few times where good choices and decision making was a little difficult for him. On Friday, he was all smiles after the class. He had gone to his teacher to see if there was any way he could be part of the rotation that has Ballroom Dance on Monday and Wednesday's. After talking it over with Admin and counselors, we felt that this is just what was needed to help him continue on the right path. I am writing you this e-mail to let you know what a happy and fun experience our students have with Ms. Sunshine and Mr.Bracamontes. They teach our students so much more than Ballroom Dance, they are mentors with compassion, they tell stories of hard work and successes, our students know that Ms. Sunshine and Mr. Bracamontes care about each one of them, and that is because they can feel it each time they walk through the gym doors. Thank you for this wonderful program and the incredible people that teach it.

Lynne Elliot
Heronville Elementary

I have been a fan of Life Change Ballroom since I saw how it changed the lives of the students at Mark Twain in 2006. And this year is no different, except that one of those students happens to be my God-son. He is learning to dance, but not only has he learned to dance; he has gained self-confidence, manners, and so much more. He has always been considered a good student, but at home it has been another story; ask his brothers. Since working with Mr. Ramirez over the past two years, he has matured, even to the point that other people have commented on how well mannered he is… it is almost as if I have a little Mr. Ramirez at home. We are so lucky.  I cannot say enough about what this program means to me and to the students, so thank you to Mr. Ramirez and allof you at Life Change Ballroom, what a difference you make. I know what you do at Life Change Ballroom really does change lives.

Angie Allen
Monroe Elementary

At the very onset, it was evident the ballroom program was going to create positive changes in the behavior of some of the boys in the class. After the second session, I could also tell the program was going to positively impact how the boys related with the girls in and out of class. What I did not realize was the extent of the impact. Really, the changed attitudes exist in each of the three classrooms with the majority of the boys.

Dr. Gilbert Oliver
Rockwood Elementary

The kids surprised me by how much they got into the idea of dancing with each other. It also surprised me how quickly they are learning the steps. The [dance] teachers are doing a great job with sensing when the students are ready to move on and when they need more practice. They have so much patience!

Elizabeth Jarret
Britton Elementary

The shy, quiet boy who was new to our school this year had no friends and never smiled. He now has become quite close with his other ballroom buddies and is hardly ever seen without a smile on his face. The mischievous class clown was never focused and always a strain on his teachers. They report that his grades have improved and he is now helpful and kind to his classmates. The awkward young girls with limited social skills now walk down the halls with a new confidence and a bounce in their step. All this may seem small, but I assure you, it is indeed life changing for these students. There is actually a visible difference.

Dolisa Muse
Music Teacher
Nichols Hills Elementary

All the kids were terrific!! It’s a wonderful program that I’m delighted to see entering our OKC Public School system!! What awesome Christian morals and values the dance instructors are placing in these young students’ lives! I know that several of the students have blossomed as a result of this program, which is so heart-warming! “My whole family enjoyed the (competition) event and Trystan really seemed thrilled at being selected to participate with his class. Best Wishes for Continued Success with Life Change Ballroom.

Debby Guthrie
Stonegate Elementary

The concept of boys acting like gentlemen and the girls acting like ladies and treating their classmates as such fits well with our philosophy at Stonegate SAS. We are preparing our young men and women for their future. Respect and courtesy will never go out of style and the ballroom dancing program does a great job of reinforcing the concept, while learning something new and fun. Thanks again for the time that you are spending with our students and teachers. You are making a positive mark on many lives.

Karen Simpkins
Stonegate Elementary

When I first found out we were going to take ballroom dancing, I was nervous, but that’s gone now. I just love it to death. I love it! It’s fun. I can do the foxtrot with my eyes closed. I’m working on my Cuban motion. Did I say I love it!?

Stonegate Elementary

The experience I’ve had with my daughter- to see her smile and see her dance with grace and that attitude, believe me is compared with nothing. It was something so marvelous and so beautiful; it makes me feel like the most proud mother on earth. A thousand thank you(s) to all that make this possible- this is a great achievement. Do not stop-- and forward, always forward.

Maria Garcia
Britton Elementary

When I dance, it’s like playing a challenging video game. There are many ways to do certain dances, but I have to know the right steps before I do anything. Ballroom dancing is fun because you can get good exercise with a partner; also it’s challenging.

5th Grade Student

After six weeks of dancing I felt like I was a star. I was getting better and better. I still think ballroom dancing is fun to do. Our teachers, Miss Katie and Mr. Ramirez, never gave up on us.

5th Grade Student

I am new to the Putman Heights school but quickly realized that this school had nothing in the way of the arts or programs. I really wanted to get a program in our school that wouldtruly make a difference. I reached out to one of the best and most respected teachers I knew, Robin Johnson. She has taught in the public school system for over 40 years and has seen it all. I knew if anyone knew of a great and effective program, Robin would surely know of it. When I asked her what programs she had seen in the past that truly was a difference maker for the kids, she did not hesitate or have to think for one second. She said, “that’s easy, it’s Life Change Ballroom”! She went on to build up your program and I am so excited to have it coming to my school this semester. I can’t wait to see the difference it will make in my kids.

Kaye Love
Putnam Heights

My teachers have said this has been a great experience for our children. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!! Our children are being enhanced culturally & are realizing the world can be their oyster. We love it!!!

Kimberly Zachery
Britton Elementary

I noticed at graduation yesterday that many students mentioned that the ballroom program was their best memory at Quail Creek Elementary School. I hope that all students will have the opportunity to participate in this excellent activity every single year. The benefits to self-esteem are outstanding and it is such a unique way to reach children.

Judy Garrett
Quail Creek Elementary