After a Decade, A Dance for Life Remains a Rite of Passage for Young Girls in Homewood

November 9, 2017

A grand ball and a community’s embrace will culminate their journey

For Immediate Release: (MEDIA)
November 9, 2017

B. Denise Hawkins
412-512-4690 (mobile)

PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Wearing white ball gowns and glittering tiaras, it will be their night to celebrate. 

For more than three months, 20 teen girls, most who are growing up in kinship care, have journeyed together in A Dance for Life, a rite of passage program that teaches things like perseverance on the way to success and that it’s okay to say no and mean it. Their journey will culminate in a grand ball at the Rhonda D. Wright Family Center of A Second Chance, Inc., in the Homewood neighborhood, on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 5 p.m.  

Sharon L. McDaniel, president and CEO of A Second Chance, Inc. (ASCI), created A Dance for Life 14 years ago. Today it is a signature program at ASCI, the only agency in the country that specializes in child welfare-involved kinship families.  A product of kinship care and foster care, McDaniel and her staff host the annual program to help change the tide in young lives. Young ladies from New Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Homewood, and who are supported by ASCI, make up this year’s A Dance for Life participants. Each year, McDaniel partners with other community-based organizations, child welfare CEOs and philanthropists, to host the event that offers teen girls culturally sensitive and authentic lessons about what it means to be Black and female—in Pittsburgh and in the world.

“I named the program A Dance for Life as a metaphor for all the dances in life that our young ladies will encounter; whether it is feeling left out, a breakup with their very first boyfriend, not getting a good grade on a test after they studied hard, or having conflict at home with their grandmas,” McDaniel said.  “These are the kind of experiences that create that dance. Our hope is that the cultural enrichment opportunities, frank discussions and nurturing we offer through A Dance for Life will help propel them to navigate their young lives with resolve, grace, confidence, and strength.”

The formal affair is also a community celebration, McDaniel said. “These are our young people, in our community. That’s why ASCI creates opportunities to work together with neighbors and families and the community to care for them.” 

Doreen Thomas, a long-time A Dance for Life coordinator and a former ASCI director, is introducing a fashion show at this year’s event. The girls will model professional clothes purchased for them from discount and thrift stores. Thomas said, for some young women, the formal dance doesn’t mark the end of their preparation and life lessons. Alumni of the program return, eager to serve as guides along another girls’ journey.  

“Some are now in college or working,” Thomas said, but because A Dance for Life changed their lives, they want to share their stories, and give back.”