Grand Changement: Empowering kids through ballet

Xiomara and Valeria love to dance. At The Salvation Army’s Kroc Corps and Community Center in San Francisco, the girls have been able to express their love of movement and enhance their education at the same time. The Kroc Center’s after school program provides resources to children who want to learn ballet but do not have access to an instructor or materials required. With the help of San Francisco’s City Ballet School, The Salvation Army is able to provide these classes and more for free to children like Xiomara and Valeria. 

Read the transcript of the video here:

Alice Papazion, Dance Instructor: There are a lot of really positive benefits from a dance class like this. It’s exposing them to movement as an art form. They also have this wonderful excuse to let out a lot of energy. 

Sonja Schappert, Education Manager: Our students just really love it. They ask every day if it’s about time for ballet. They love being a part of the dance class. They love Miss Ali. It’s just a very beautiful experience that they get to have every week.

City Ballet School in San Francisco provides a ballet instructor to teach for free at the Kroc center.

Xiomara: My name is Xiomara. My favorite color’s aqua and I like dancing because it’s it’s like painting but it’s… your moving your muscles.

Valeria: My name is Valeria because when I was little I used to see my sister dance in her room and then I’m like, “Can you teach me how to do it?” and she said “sure.” If you are like a lover of dancing you want to learn more.

Katherine Au, Marketing and Sales Manager: It’s completely free all the way down to the shoes in the leotards. City Ballet has been gracious enough to provide the children with leotards and ballet shoes, something that our families can’t afford. 

Sonja Schappert, Education Manager: It’s important to be able to offer services like the ballet classes at the Kroc Center because otherwise we wouldn’t be available to our kids.

Interviewer: Do you want ballet to be a part of your future?

Xiomara: OK half and half! Half ballerina, half musician! Now mix the futures together, and I’ll be an actress.

Valeria: Ballet is gonna be a part of my future because I want to perform, like in the Nutcracker because Christmas is my favorite holiday!

Sonja Schappert, Education Manager: I’ve been working with Valeria and Xiomara since they were in the first grade. Watching them grow in the after-school program, not only academically but, also to grow socially and emotionally. To see them really carry that selves with self-confidence and pride has been beautiful. 

Katherine Au, Marketing and Sales Manager: Our program is homework first. We feel that we need to be homework first because a lot of our students are two grades behind when they come to us and our hope is that by the end of the year they’re on par with the other students in their class and from there go on to electives. Electives include science experiments, mixed media arts, poetry slam, piano classes, strengths program and ballet.

Alice Papazion, Dance Instructor: Some of them have some really challenging situations at home. My hope is that they can come here and have a safe space to be free in their bodies and let some of that stuff go. Tenderloin is known for prostitution, for drugs, mental illness, so we’re amongst the hub for a lot of crime as well.

Sonja Schappert, Education Manager: What the Kroc Center provides is a really safe place for kids to be kids after school.

Tenderloin safe passage cleans the streets every afternoon so kids can walk in a safe and clean environment.

Sonja Schappert, Education Manager: We just daily act as a shield for our students. My motivation with the after-school program is to really love students, with a love of God. We may not be presenting the gospel day in and day out but what it is, is a bridge, it’s a way to build trust and all the staff can love a student whether they have the same faith that The Salvation Army holds.

I’ve seen our students really thrive in the stability of what our program offers. We have consistent expectations for the students and it really helps students who have experienced trauma or who have had difficult life circumstances thrive as a child.  It’s meeting our students’ needs, it’s building confidence, it’s life changing, it’s transformational and it provides the perfect foundation to share the love of God and to cultivate a relationship with Christ.

Valeria and Xiomara have been offered a scholarship to attend The City Ballet School in San Francisco. 

To find a Salvation Army near you, visit

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