Brittany Ballentine

KIPP Alumni Brittany Ballentine

I dance because it makes me happy.

When I’m dancing, I forget about any problems occurring in the world. It allows me to be free.

I started training when I was four years old. In middle school, my close friends and I started a dance club at KIPP. We were called the Umoja Diamonds. We would step, dance, and cheer during all of those fun Saturday school days. But at one point, I didn’t know if I wanted to continue. I didn’t know if I was good enough to take my talent to the next level and dance professionally. So I started to consider doing something different.

However, my high school dance teacher, pulled me aside and said, “No. You have a gift. You need to go for it.” He told me that I could be successful. He even told me where to apply.

I was skeptical, but I followed his advice and applied to the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, one of the best dance schools in the country. And I got in!

Yes, I’ve had obstacles. I was in a really bad car accident my senior year in college. I fractured a lot of bones and didn’t know if I would ever dance again. But two months later, I was able to come back stronger than I left. I still think about my high school dance teacher every day. He was put in my life for a reason.

Without him, I would not have attended Fordham University or graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.8 GPA. I simply would not be where I am today. I am currently dancing for Norwegian Cruise Line. I get to travel and make money doing what I initially thought would be a hobby. Today, I’m talking to you from Marseille, France. I still can’t believe that dance has allowed me to see the world.

I frequently go back and visit KIPP every chance I get. KIPP has shaped me into the young lady I have become. I have gained so many pivotal moments in life because of my KIPP experience.

Every year at KIPP, we went on an end-of-the-year field lesson. One of those trips was a Civil Rights Tour, where we traveled all the way from Baltimore to Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuskegee. To see those places at a young age, after reading so much about them in textbooks, to go into the 16th street Baptist Church, to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge—that was special. And we also visited different prestigious colleges and universities throughout the trip. Now remember, this was only middle school, so there we were walking around those campuses, seeing them, feeling them…

KIPP made us all want to continue to climb that mountain to college.

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