In classes with DMF Youth, students in Afterschool & Recreation are learning more than just dance steps—they’re learning to be the best, most confident version of themselves.

DMF stands for Dance, Motivation, and Fitness. The non-profit was started by fitness instructor Lindi Duesenberg to empower youth through both physical and social-emotional education. Thanks to sponsor KidCare, DMF Youth conducts a Residency Program that regularly visits afterschool & recreation at most of HFH’s shelters helping children practice healthy living and develop coping skills.

“Dance and fitness classes help kids gain strength and cardiovascular health,” said Ms. Alexa, a DMF instructor who led one of the classes at Prospect Family Residence recently. “But when you add the social-emotional learning that we do, you can really teach kids to be in control of themselves and have the authority to say what they want and know what they need.”

“It’s giving children the tools to handle hard situations,” said Ms. Nicole, another DMF instructor. “They can say, ‘I’m going to use my superpower, I’m going to be a superhero’ and talk to themselves in a positive way. Having this really safe space to express themselves is crucial.”

Giovani Yapor, Lead Teacher at Prospect Afterschool & Rec, sees firsthand just how much students enjoy and appreciate DMF’s programming.

“They’re always waiting for those teachers to come in because they just like the class a lot. The kids look forward to dancing and having a good time with those teachers. They never want to see them leave,” Giovani said.

DMF’s Global Leadership Curriculum also exposes students to various cultures around the world through dance, food, and learning. This enriching component of DMF’s educational programming amplifies and celebrates students’ own cultures, heritages, and traditions.

“[My students] learned about a lot of different countries and multiple cultures throughout the school year,” Giovani added. “They learned about different religions, foods, dances, music, environments, and different ways of life. [DMF] made sure to implement a lot of different cultural dances from salsa to hip hop, African dances, to even some ballet.”

Heidy Mendez, a Program Associate at HFH, and former Education Programs Coordinator at Prospect Afterschool & Rec, noted the benefits of DMF’s focus on cultural diversity.

“In this time we’re in, exposure to diversity and appreciation of differences is a cool thing for the program,” she said.

Ms. Nicole mentioned that some kids have even visited their home countries and come to DMF excited to share and teach the instructors and other students.

DMF Youth founder Lindi Duesenberg said participants gain confidence, self-esteem, and grit.

“Most kids come into the program with a fixed mindset, believing they’re either talented or not, they’re smart or they’re not,” she explained. “We teach them that with effort, determination, practice, and hard work, you can accomplish anything.”

And that message surely gets across. After a class at Prospect, one student shared: “I don’t always know the dance moves, but I like to try.”

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