Miss Hawaii’s Outstanding Teen 2022
HeartBeat – The Creative Dance Pulse
There’s an image in my head that I will never forget of dancing in my dance studio with Devynn, an eight-year-old girl with autism. While we jump around and dance, she tells me about her day. Devynn proceeds to tell me about her family and school life and I am so grateful that she can open up to me. The pandemic left people feeling disconnected as a lot of our interactions were done through the computer. About three weeks after we had just gone back to in-person classes, Devyn was shy and not comfortable expressing herself through words.
My social impact initiative is my involvement with HeartBeat, a non-profit organization that allows intellectually-challenged individuals like Devyn to have a way of expressing themselves through dance. Dance has been a huge part of my life since the age of six. I have always seen dance as a way to express myself, and to be creative, when words fail me. Through dance, I am provided with a space where I can relate myself to both music and movement. Ultimately, this outlet helps me get through all of the difficult times.
HeartBeat has been in existence for about 14 years. My studio director, Marcelo Pacleb, named this group “Heartbeat” because he felt that they were the heart and soul of 24/7 DanceForce, a dance studio that I have been involved with for several years. This still rings true. My role in this program is to greet the newcomers and make them feel welcomed since some are reluctant or hesitant to express themselves in a verbal way. I’ve learned that whether someone is a new dancer or a returning dancer, once that music starts pumping through the speakers, and they feel the pulse of the music, all of their troubles and worries disappear. I get to spend 1-2 hours a week with the dancers in this program which in fact, is not a lot of time. Every minute I have with them counts, and I genuinely look forward to this each week! Not only do I get to teach HeartBeat, but I feel they also teach me. Through them, I have learned how to be grateful for being able to dance in general, to persevere, like Devynn did, through the rough times in life, and to have the determination to overcome what obstacles may come my way. I think of the HeartBeat students as warriors who have been fighting their whole life. Whether challenged by the condition that they have or the circumstances that they face, their strength is undeniable. Beyond Hawaii, schools around the nation and around the world should learn what HeartBeat is all about.
As Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, I plan to team up with programs such as the National Dance Institute’s DREAM Project (Dancers Realize Excellence through Arts & Movement) and Special Olympics, to spark inspiration for other states to start their own organization like HeartBeat. DREAM believes everyone can dance. HeartBeat does too and it serves as an inspiration for anyone from anywhere in the world. Everyone should have the chance to get to know the stories behind the dancers of HeartBeat, just as I got to know Devyn’s story. Through my advocacy, I will present the stories of these children, through the voices of HeartBeat, and help audiences understand that life is full of peaks and valleys. Be grateful for the peaks and traverse through the valleys; through some of my toughest moments in life, HeartBeat has helped me to persevere.
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