Colfax Charter Elementary School and the DREAM Program

Erica teaching 4th grade/Photo by Alex Havasi

For the past 5 years, as you may know, the Fordney Foundation sponsored the Dancing With Our Local Schools program that was based in the Conejo Valley (Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Newbury Park) areas.  It was so successful and touched the lives of over 4,000 elementary school children, we thought we would branch out and explore new areas.  In doing that, we also thought to rename our program.  We now call it DREAM, (Discover Respect Achieve Motivate).  It was created for 4th through 12th grade students in Southern California School Districts.

We would like to share our first DREAM school experience with you now.  I think we are on to something good here and you will be able to see that for yourself from these fun filled pictures taken by Sandor “Alex” Havasi, the Assistant Director of Fordney Foundation and Mrs. Fordney’s husband.  You will get to know Erica Arnold, our wonderfully talented professional dancer and dance instructor who works very well with young students.  And here is how the day was spent at Colfax Charter Elementary School, as narrated and written by our Founder and Director, Marilyn Fordney.

On December 9, Principal Robyn Friedman of Colfax Charter Elementary School located in

Erica teaching 5th grade/Photo by Alex Havasi

Valley Village, California invited my husband and I to visit. This meeting gave us the opportunity to see four classes comprised of 4th and 5th grade students who gain benefits from our DREAM program. They take weekly ballroom dance sport lessons from Erica Arnold. Book marks, the DREAM brochures, and the Fordney Foundation brochures were given to all of the teachers, so they could give them to their students to take home to their parents.

The first 4th grade group was accompanied by their teacher, Anya Hulett. I was invited to speak

Anya Hulett-4th grade/Photo by Alex Havasi

to the students and after watching them dance, congratulated them on how well they were learning and retaining the dance steps. These photographs show them in a group as well as being taught during class by Erica Arnold.

The second group was another 4th grade accompanied by their instructor, Grace Mayberry. I told the students how well they were keeping rhythm to the music. I told the students how important it was to learn the skill of dance because that can stay with them the rest of their lives. Here is a photograph of the entire dance class.

Shortly after a recess break, my husband and I met the first 5th grade group that was

accompanied by their teacher, Sarah Howe. To this group, I expressed positive comments on how disciplined they were in learning and felt they had progressed extremely fast for such a short time. Here is a group photograph and also a photo taken during the learning of salsa steps.

Sarah Howe’s class-5th grade/Photo by Alex Havasi

Just before lunch another 5th grade group accompanied by their instructor, Gail Craven made their appearance. To this last group, I gave them and their parents a holiday message. At the end of class, a group photograph was taken as shown here.

As you can see, Marilyn Fordney and Alex Havasi had quite a good time.  Our first school is making great progress in learning how to ballroom dance and we are all very excited about our new program. We will continually keep you posted on our school events as they unfold.  In another blog, I will fill you in on the DREAM program and tell you more about it.  It will mean a lot to us and the children, if you would like to participate in making a contribution to this worthy cause, at any time.  Please feel free to visit our website:  Go to About Us, go to Programs, tab the drop down menu to DREAM and read more about this unique program.

Gail Craven-5th grade/Photo by Alex Havasi

Special thanks to Ms. Erica Arnold for doing such a great job in teaching the kids to have fun as they learn to dance!  We always thank Alex Havasi for the super pictures he takes.  And we are grateful to Marilyn Fordney for her kindness and generosity in sharing her long envisioned dream of  seeing children dance!

Thought Of The Week:

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul”  –  Martha Graham


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website