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State Honoree

Jennifer Thomas

Georgia

Jennifer Thomas, 18, of Mableton, Ga., a senior at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy in Atlanta, created a classical ballet program for elementary students to expose other young African-Americans to the fine arts. Jennifer, who participated in the academy’s after-school program but was discouraged by the lack of fun activities, approached the program director two years ago with her idea to start a ballet class. Soon Jennifer was teaching ballet once a week to students in kindergarten through third grade. She developed information kits, taught ballet terminology, and took the students on trips to attend local ballet performances. Before long, older students became interested and Jennifer recruited a fellow dancer to help teach additional classes. When the students began to perform at various school functions, Jennifer even secured fabric donations and made ballet costumes for the students. As a result of Jennifer’s work, her school has established a formal dance program and hired a professional dance instructor, enabling Jennifer’s program to continue after she graduates. “I hope that not only will the students learn more about dance,” said Jennifer, “but that they will see that their own hard work can create a change and that they also can improve other situations in their lives.”