LaTeen Online

Jenna Lyon Founder,

A Chance to Dance

by Rachel Sokol

Back in high school, Jenna Lyon—currently a junior at the University of Kentucky—launched A Chance to Dance, a free dance program for children and young adults with special needs. Five years later, she continues to proudly juggle her academics with her devotion to the dance program. She’s the head teacher and has forged special bonds with her young protégés.

Currently, the program has about 25 participants and is divided into two classes based on age. Weekly classes are held at a studio in Lexington, Kentucky.

"Students learn both ballet and jazz and are taught some of the same dance terminology and technique as
other students at the dance studio,” explains Lyon, an experienced, trained dancer. “In addition, each class learns choreographed dances that are performed at a holiday showcase, a spring recital, and other local events."

Read on to learn more about this inspirational college student.

Tell us more about running A Chance to Dance.

I spend countless hours coordinating fundraisers, choreographing routines, communicating with parents, creating lesson plans for our weekly classes, and more. I find that my passion for the program and my love for the students helps me juggle the demands of the class, as well as my school work.

What’s the best compliment you received from a student or parent?
A parent stated that my program has done more for their child than any therapies and other activities they have tried, and that their child’s social, motor, and communication skills have improved significantly due to the program. Also, a student once said she wants to be just like me when she grows up. She added that she might not be able to teach a dance class like I do, but wants to help kids less fortunate and do what she can to make
them feel important in life, just as I have done for her.

What charities are near and dear to your heart?
While I devote most of my time to my program, I’m always supporting my students outside of class. I participate in local walks and 5ks to raise awareness and money for autism and Down syndrome. Additionally, I participate in cycling charity rides and the Share the Joy program. Every Christmas, I help provide
Share the Joy families I’ve ‘adopted’ with necessities such as clothing, blankets, and food, as well as Christmas gifts.

What have you learned about yourself through A Chance to Dance?
This has definitely been the most rewarding experience of my life! The students have taught me that we are all capable of doing anything if we set our hearts and minds to it. The things they have been able to accomplish as well as the barriers they have had to overcome amaze me and inspire me every day. I have also learned that when I am as passionate about something as I am about A Chance to Dance, there is no limit on the amount of time I am willing to put into the program.

What do you want people about your dancers?
Every student in A Chance to Dance has amazed me by what they have been able to accomplish. Students with special needs are able to achieve the same things as other children if they are given a little more time to learn, some extra help, consistency, and most of all, someone who believes in them! This has been very evident in our program.

Future career goals?
I plan on becoming an elementary education teacher and completing my masters in educational leadership studies. As an elementary teacher, I want to work closely with the special education teacher and have a classroom open to all students. I am motivated by my students. Their love for the world, people, and one another motivates me every day to put in the time and work necessary to make A Chance to Dance successful.


Learn more about A Chance to Dance
on facebook: @achancetodance.


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