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Community Bridges Spring 2012 Fellow: Cynthia Novoa ’14, YES Prep Over the course of this semester, I have been honored to work with an inspiring group of students at Yes Prep Fifth Ward Middle School. One of the main goals of my internship experience was to create an after school program that introduced students to the arts through dance and to provide them with a safe environment as well as a positive means of expression. The result of that goal was the creation of an after school dance program entitled, “Express Yourself!” As a Yes Prep intern, I had the opportunity to work with a great group of students on a weekly basis as a dance instructor and mentor. Each week, I went to the Fifth Ward and worked with Yes Prep students after school. I taught students the core fundamentals of dance and prepared them for a performance in the Rice Owls Dance Team Spring Show at Rice University. Beyond this, I developed a meaningful relationship as a mentor with each and every one of the students. One of the main goals and accomplishments of my program has been the students participation in the Rice Owls Dance Team Spring Show. Students worked diligently over the course of the program to learn a dance routine which they performed at Rice University this April. The goal of this performance was to provide students with a platform to showcase their efforts. The performance also served as encouragement for college attendance by exposing students to Rice University. The students had an amazing performance that was truly inspiring

to watch. They showcased their passion for dance and hard work for two performances to soldout audiences. Through this journey I have witnessed students blossom both individually and as a team. Now at the end of the program, I am proud to say that I have witnessed students forge new friendships and exhibit growth, increased confidence, and self-esteem. Service learning has enriched my academic experience immensely. It has allowed me to venture outside of the classroom to develop a deep understanding of the issues surrounding urban inequality through first-hand experience. At the end of the day, we can read about issues pertaining to poverty and inequality but taking the next step and interacting with the Fifth Ward community, witnessing it personally, and actively participating to make a change has made all the difference. Being able to travel to the Fifth Ward each week to affect change in our own unique way has been a very touching, meaningful, and rewarding experience. Service learning is pivotal in bridging the gap between the theory and concepts we learn in class with affecting change in the real world. The most meaningful part of my internship experience has been providing students with an opportunity for growth that they would have otherwise gone without. Dance is a major passion of mine; it has allowed me to express myself and has been an outlet for me through the good times and hard times in my life. It has been deeply meaningful for me to be able to share my passion with students in the Fifth Ward. Perhaps the most profound moment for me throughout this experience came when I was discussing the uniform students would be wearing for their performances. I was excitedly describing to them the details of their uniform when a student asked me, “How much is all of this going to cost?� I was taken aback by this question. I knew that the uniforms would be no cost to them; I was going to tell them that before the close

of the discussion. It didn’t occur to me that the cost of the uniforms would be the first thing that came to mind for students. I quickly replied, “The uniforms are not going to cost your families anything. They are being provided to you for free!” I saw a look of relief on everyone’s face. It was very meaningful for me to be the bearer of good news for the students. It was a great feeling for me to tell them that they would be able to participate in the program without it creating a financial burden for their families. I would like to extend a huge thank you to Stacy Thompson who was my supervisor at Yes Prep over the course of the semester. She made great efforts to keep in touch with the interns despite her hectic schedule. Without her knowledge and support, I would not have been able to accomplish my goals for the program. I am very grateful she took on this responsibility and helped me to create a successful program.

Cynthia novoa reflection  
Cynthia novoa reflection