Y.E.L.P ALUMNI TESTIMONIALS
Life Change Ballroom has literally CHANGED MY LIFE. I came from a broken home and never had an escape from violence inside and outside of my home. When I would come to ballroom every Saturday, I left all my problems at home because I could. I felt FREE!!! The love, acceptance and support that I had and still have from Cindy, Tami, and fellow dancers is something I seriously needed.
After graduating from the program, I became an instructor for a couple of years and was able to pour into hundreds of children with what was poured into me. I was able to teach dance, but more importantly, I was able to mentor, support, and love hundreds of little “me’s”. What a blessing it is to have a program that literally change lives daily. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
Life Change Ballroom has prepared me for the trials and tribulations in life. Even though dance is one of the major focuses in the program, there is actually much more to that than you think. LCB Program creates and gives a positive environment for young children and teens just like me a chance to showcase their talents and ways to improve them. That’s just dance alone… Our motto is, “I’m going to DO more, BE more and HAVE more, so I can GIVE more!” We were taught things like courtesy, responsibility, being reliable, and proper etiquette. That’s not even all, those are just a few things that I know helped me get to the position I am today. Thank you, Life Change Ballroom for instilling us with all the LOVE and COURAGE you guys gave us. Thank you, Life Change Ballroom, for being life changing in ways others can’t see!
Life Change Ballroom is the program I’ve been involved in for 7 years of my life. Not only did they help build my self-confidence, but they also encouraged and supported me. Life Change Ballroom has been my big family & also brought me to know such wonderful kids from all over the city. I’ve always enjoyed dancing and being able to learn different styles of dances. It has become such a passion to where I could feel the beat & move my body. Also, it helps me express myself by dancing to the rhythm of the music. It always enlightens me, along with becoming more spiritual with God, and knowing that I have a purpose. I am blessed to be where I am today!
Life Change Ballroom was the lifesaver that I, along with many other kids needed. Yes, I loved dancing, but what my heart yearned for during this program was a place of freedom and that’s exactly what I received. Freedom from home, school and sometimes freedom from ourselves. This program taught me partnership, spiritual lessons and gave me a second family that I’m forever thankful for. I knew that walking through those doors I’d not only love the dancing but, my spirit and being would be loved and nurtured during it. I was given this so that I can pass that love and knowledge I gained from Life Change Ballroom to the next generation. For these reasons, I say thank you.
I was the shy kid in school and was always nervous around huge crowds. I had my first dance performance at Rose State Theater and the house was packed, I’m pretty sure all of the seats were filled. Surprisingly enough, I was not as scared to dance in front of everyone as I am scared to talk. I found my true love after that night, which is dance.
I took a leap of faith when I decided to accept the invitation to join Life Change Ballroom. At that moment, I felt like I was meant to be there. Like it was my calling. Life Change Ballroom helped me overcome a lot of fears and get through so many challenges. I spoke in front of people, I taught my own choreography, and also mentored other students who turned out to be great people. Life Change Ballroom got me into a great high school and gave me plenty of connections and opportunities to start my dance career. How can I thank them enough? Life Change Ballroom is my family. We all grew a bond with each other. After leaving the program we all still hang out and check up on each other. Some of us still dance together. I also met my best friend in this program. They will always be my family, no matter how far we go.
My name is Yesenia Velasco and I had been doing Life Change Ballroom since fourth grade. My fifth-grade year I competed in the salsa with my partner and we won. I would look up to the girls in the YELP Program. I got into the summer program and I was so excited to advance in dancing. Dancing was not all we did, they even taught us manners and different eating skills. This program also provided new friendships and I still try to keep up with them. When I was 16 I got pregnant and had to quit, but Miss Tami and Miss Cindy told me I would be good and they told me it would be hard. They didn't stop caring for me they would still check up on me even till this day. This program has taught me how to dance, manners, speaking skills, and to not give up. I graduated high school and I am now a full-time student at the University of Central Oklahoma with a one-year-old. I do struggle and have hard times, but this program has shown me I can get through my struggles by pushing myself to do better.
Being a part of Life Change Ballroom program was not only a privilege, but an honor. This program helped make me into the person I am today, teaching me life skills and lessons. It also helped me discover my love for dance. I could not imagine what my life would have been like if it wasn’t surrounded by all the love and support from this program.
The Yelp program was and continues to be one of the most impactful and amazing experiences I ever got to be a part of. This program kept me busy, developed my character and made me want to strive for a better life for myself. Additionally, it taught me real life skills that I know I could not have been taught in a regular classroom. Although I am no longer a part of the program, I am eternally grateful to have been given the chance to join the program. Life Change was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Life Change Ballroom literally changed my life. Every aspect of my life consists of the skills this program has instilled in me. From being responsible to respectful, I have blossomed into a leader. Without the commitment I had with the program I would not have been exposed to the nurturing process of becoming the young woman I am today. Life Change Ballroom has made me an independent figure of my generation ready to inspire others every single day. I am beyond blessed to have been a part of something so impactful. I am doing great! Spiritually, mentally, and physically. I’m ranked number one at my school, I have straight A’s, my job is great, and I’m slowly growing day by day. KEEP impacting kids! I love what you’re doing… it’s truly amazing. Trust me, they may not seem grateful now, but once they realize who they are because of it, they will love you forever more. Trust the process!
Life Change Ballroom has changed my life in so many ways. This amazing organization has given me many opportunities in my career as a dancer and in my daily life. One of the biggest things I have learned from Life Change Ballroom is that discipline and a foundation in your life will help you in the long run. That’s something I have always applied myself to. I knew when I graduated high school that I wanted to try to dance professionally. I have been traveling the world as a professional dancer for Norwegian Creative Studios. I am now on my 2nd contract with Norwegian (cruise line) stationed in Europe, traveling to Croatia, Italy, Greece, Spain & France. My first contract I was stationed in Hawaii, traveling to Maui, Kauai, Honolulu and Kona. I’m super thankful for what this program is doing for the community/inner-city schools. It blows my mind how they are making positive changes in many people’s lives through dance. I find that so inspiring and hopefully, one day I can do the same.
Life Change Ballroom has been the most helpful, Impactful program that I’ve been a part of. Ballroom helped me grow tons. I of course have been through a lot in my younger years growing up but being a part of this program was an escape plan that allowed me to see that life has more than what I knew. The program opened up tons of opportunities for me, getting me into a better school for a good quality education, a summer program that had different teaching daily, etc.
Ballroom also taught me technique that allowed me to utilize in sports such as football. Agility is crucial in any sport especially football, overall this program helped me with the ability to move quickly and easily. I could go on and on about what a blessing this program has been to me, the impact the program caused in my life will never go unnoticed. I’ve also learned professionalism, which is highly Important on how to present yourself around people daily. I can’t thank Life Change Ballroom enough for the support, and guidance.
My time in Life Change Ballroom has been nothing short of a blessing and, still yet, even after leaving the program, they continue to bless me! Growing up in a single-parent home was really tough, and I never
imagined myself finding a male role model anytime in my life, but soon after I joined Life Change, I discovered all the guidance that I would ever need. The guys there were willing to talk, and Ms. Cindy and Ms. Tami were willing to guide and provide.
I wish it would have come into my life sooner, but the fact that I was able to participate in this program in the first place is more than I can ask for! I am truly thankful for everything this program has done for me and the rest of my Life Change Family!
Nothing warms my heart more than to see that since I have left the program and am unable to see the faces of loved ones and familiars each week, I can now walk in everyday as an Instructor and see and mentor new, shining faces ready to continue the Life Change legacy, which is to Do more, Be more and Have more, so that eventually we can all Give more!
I give Life Change Ballroom all the credit for the past 14 years of my life. I was a hard-headed kid and more often than not, I didn’t want to listen to them. Sometimes it went in one ear and out the other. I am so thankful that they stuck by my side through all my ups and downs, and I really had some downs. I was out there on the streets doing things I shouldn’t have been doing, trying to follow in my brother’s footsteps. I shouldn’t have and with their help, I realized I’m not that person. They expected a lot more out of me and I needed them to do that. I look at LCB, Miss Tami and Miss Cindy as my real family. They have showed me more love than my real family and I’m sorry that I have to say that. When people asked me where I was spending Christmas or Thanksgiving, I said with Miss Tami. They asked me, “Why not with my family” and I always said because Miss Tami’s family is my family and they love me unconditionally. Miss Tami is like my mother- she made sure that I graduated, she made sure that I was happy, that I was good and I was straight. She made sure that I didn’t follow in my brother’s footsteps that led him to prison for 30 years. If it wasn’t for ballroom, I would be sagging, wearing one color (the gang’s color) and heading to the penitentiary just like my brother. You don’t know how hard it is to watch your brother go away for so long. They have showed me more love than anyone. It’s ridiculous how much they love me. When I look back at all their advice and guidance now, I say to myself, “Yes, they were right about that, and yes they were right about that one too, and yes, they were right about everything!” Because of them, I am doing what I love to do today. I am mentoring kids through coaching football. I hope that I can pass on all the wisdom and guidance that I got from them to the kids I am working with today.
I was a part of Life Change Ballroom ever since the fifth grade. I’m 19 years-old and now, a current freshman at Rose State Community College, pursuing the dream of becoming a civil engineer. I’ve learned many life lessons being a part of the LCB program, but one thing I can’t thank them enough for, is changing my mindset to what it is now. I used to be kind of immature, especially when I was younger. I would always do things without thinking twice and have even been suspended for hurting a girl in elementary. I now look back at my past with a sort of embarrassment and regret because I realized how far I came from the person I used to be, which was a selfish kid who distracted many and had a good way of hiding that image from others.
The first thing that really begin to shape my maturity was the words of the week we would go over throughout our 5th grade classes. The instructors would talk about words like integrity, cooperation, and responsibility, but the one that really stuck with me was the word respect. I already knew what it meant but they helped us in how you can apply it to the real world and others around you. Ever since then I began to slowly come around to act my age and eventually becoming the young man I am today. Another big factor that has helped me throughout my years in LCB was the amount of support from friends and adults that were involved in the troupe, especially Mrs. Cindy and Mrs. Tami. They all gave me the support and love that I lacked from the family I had at home. Now I didn’t grow up in a broken home or anything, my parents were both still married until the year of 2015. My parents and I weren’t as close back then compared to how we are now because I had trouble expressing my life issues with them. Over time though, with the support I received from my second family at LCB I slowly began to talk to my parents more and we became closer. I really want to thank everyone at LCB for being a part of my life, they’ve all given me the support I was in need of, and I’m forever thankful.
Looking back at my years at Life Change, I really had a blast being a part of the program and although I’m no longer apart of the troupe, I still tend to visit, because they’re family, they were there for me and I’m trying to make sure I’m there for them.
Life Change Ballroom is literally life changing. Growing up we, as in young black males, are taught to follow certain rules, certain codes, and lifestyles that did not prepare us for the present day. Hatred for cops is one of the many things we were taught. Hatred towards white people was another, along with self-hatred. No one literally said to hate ourselves because that would be crazy, right? But learning to hate our predicaments, living options, and other kids in poverty (mainly black), you didn't have to say to hate yourself because it was put there by the generation ahead of us. Literally spoon-fed hate. Gangs seem to be the best way to describe the self- hate I'm talking about. It's not even about color. It could be what side of town you live on, or even the words someone says to you, but it's about the hatred of oneself. I doubt anyone would put the bullet in their own skull, so they destroy others to see that image of a young black man struggling and breaking to be set free from oppression. (Death).
In the 5th grade, a new path was laid out for us in a way we'd never thought- ballroom dancing! Learning to Cha-Cha wasn't the way out, but it was the lessons behind it. Learning that progress won't be made until the men finally learn to lead in a way for women to follow. Dancing was the physical fun part, but when I learned at 10 that I didn’t have to do the same things I had been taught growing up to get a better life, things got dramatically better.
It was Life Change that taught me proper table etiquette, finances, how to tie a tie, how to overcome obstacles, and most importantly how to be me, and love myself. I've seen kids with no hope constantly smile every Saturday- kids with broken families and shredded souls, that would do any and everything for any and everyone in that gym. I wish it was Monday through Saturday. Life Change Ballroom is a key to a door we as a community do not have yet. My very first job was as a Life Change Ballroom instructor. Mentoring kids that are not yours is some weight to carry- lol, I don't see how Granny & Aunt Tami did it. But, when teaching someone about life struggles you went through or are going through, you realize you learn more and more every time. I'm glad I was one of many to experience such a great change in a way I absolutely love. It's a bit cliché, but it's a fact that if it wasn't for LCB, I'd be dead, in prison, or on the way to both stops. For those of us that came from dark corners, Life Change is a spark of light we all carry with us. What if everyone carried a piece of that light? Imagine a whole state or even a nation striving to break cycles in such a beautiful way. I’m glad ballroom dancing was my way.
Compliments of Paycom, they sent us all to the play, "Come From Away," a true story about the people from the island of Gander, who took in and cared for over 7,000 passengers from grounded planes on 911. As a part of the project, " I Am An Islander," they asked Christian and me to give our testimony about Life Change Ballroom..