One Grant

ABCDance at New Genesis Learning Center / Photo by Robert Neumann

Three-year-old Iris was having trouble in school. She often missed important instruction time and only knew the first letter of her name. This all changed when ABCDance, an arts collaborative of Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers and Head Start, came to her school.

The goal of ABCDance is to help Kalamazoo County Head Start students narrow learning gaps amplified by economic and social inequities.

One wouldn’t necessarily expect an arts organization to be in the literacy development business, but one modest grant — $18,000 — from the Community Foundation helped make it happen.

“Ninety-five percent of brain development occurs between birth and age five,” says Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers’ Francesca Pileci. “We also know motor skill development precedes language development. ABCDance approaches the literacy curriculum, which integrates these developmental stages, through our specialty: movement.”

The curriculum covers vocabulary, phonetics, alphabet and comprehension, and focuses on the students as individuals, addressing each one’s cultural, developmental and social needs.

Iris and many other children are transforming because of this innovative collaboration. By the end of the five-week program, Iris had zero behavior issues and could spell her first and last names.

“The results were immediate and promising — and heartwarming,” says Cori Terry. “It’s an epic story.”

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