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Learning something new expands life, social skills

Kentwood —Freshman K’Mya Smith caught on quickly to fast and funky hip-hop dance moves. She stepped, slid, clapped and snapped to the music.

“I like that dance,” she said during a break in the hour-long class, which took place in the school’s Collaboration Center. “I like hip-hop. I love it!”

She and a dozen classmates at the East Kentwood Freshman Campus were learning a full hip-hop routine thanks to Artists Creating Together. Special education teacher Rachel Rogers received a grant from ACT, which empowers individuals with disabilities to learn through the arts. Artist-in-residence Heather Truoug led the hip-hop sessions during several visits. 

Students in the school’s Autism Spectrum Disorder and Moderately Cognitively Impaired program had the chance to expand their creative horizons in several ways. Along with hip-hop, they participated in weekly sessions of interpretive dance and yoga and tried 16 different types of art during a special festival week in early May. Highlights were drumming, singing, making 3D art and illustration.

“It’s about expanding interests, exposure to different things outside their realm. We find things we like and we stick to them, so without trying something new we wouldn’t know it would be an area of interest,” Rogers said. “Also, we look at it as these are life skills and social skills they can get involved in with their friends.”

Carter Bacon has a favorite dance he learned: “the finger dance,” he said, demonstrating by wiggling all his fingers and thumps at the same time. He also likes a move that looks like a karate chop. “It’s fun!” he said.

Student Jalen Thomas agreed. “I like the music. Everything is awesome.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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