Community program reaches out to Latino teens
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Thanks to a grant from the Aetna Foundation, young people in Anaheim can dance their way to better health with free classes from Anaheim Ballet.
Today, Aetna Foundation representatives presented a $15,000 check to Anaheim Ballet that will let the school offer its daily STEP-UP! dance classes at no charge to young people in Anaheim. Mayor Tom Tait attended the ceremony celebrating the program’s success.
“STEP-UP! is much more than an exercise class,” said Evan Rosenberg, director of Anaheim Ballet. “STEP-UP! is a wellness program that can improve our students’ lives in so many ways. By the end of the semester, our students stand taller, eat better, have a more positive body image and improved self-confidence. We are grateful to the Aetna Foundation for helping us offer STEP-UP! to young people in our community who otherwise would not be able to take part.”
Known for its rigorous classes in traditional ballet and modern dance, Anaheim Ballet has offered the STEP-UP! program for more than 15 years. The goal is to use the joy of dance to help young people be more physically active and live healthier lives.
This year, about 150 kids, ages 8 to 20, are enrolled. The daily, 45-minute classes teach ballet and hip-hop, dance steps that incorporate aerobics, stretching, and strengthening. A nutrition expert offers tips on healthy eating and lifestyle habits.
Rosenberg noted that the majority of students in the program are from Anaheim’s large Latino community, a population that is at higher risk of obesity and related health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
“We have seen dance be a powerful motivator for people of all fitness levels to be more physically active, eat better and take care of their health,” said Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of regional grant making. “Our goal at the Aetna Foundation is to promote health and wellness, particularly in underserved communities where access to healthy food, safe streets and quality health care may be limited.”
STEP-UP! student Angie Ibarra, 19, says the program has helped her eat better, lose weight and be more confident. “The STEP-UP! program at Anaheim Ballet has been an incredible experience. Not only has ballet helped me physically, it has also helped me mentally by helping me make better decisions and helping me stay positive. It has also helped me step out of my shell and become more social.” Angie has been in the program for more than five years.
Classes are held Monday through Friday 3:45 pm – 4:30 pm at the Anaheim Cultural Arts Center. STEP-UP! students perform in the annual Anaheim Ballet Spring Concert at Servite High School.
For more information about classes, visit www.anaheimballet.org or call 714-520-0904.
About Anaheim Ballet
Anaheim Ballet was proclaimed the resident ballet company of Anaheim, California in City Council chambers in August 1997. Anaheim Ballet [formerly Coast Ballet Theatre] has been a leading presence in the Southern California arts community for over 30 years. Anaheim Ballet’s mission is to enlighten and entertain audiences with classically rooted programming and contemporary presentation. Anaheim Ballet provides quality performances to audiences of balletomanes as well as novice ballet-goers and acts as a haven to talented Southern California artists and as a magnet to international talents. Anaheim Ballet’s Educational Outreach and Scholarship STEP-UP! program is committed to the promotion of classical ballet and providing its numerous benefits to those otherwise not able to receive them.
About the Aetna Foundation
The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $413 million in grants and sponsorships, including $19.2 million in 2011. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.6 million hours since 2003. Aetna’s current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit www.aetnafoundation.org.