BRANDON — Students gathered on the classroom dance floor at the Bill Carey Boys and Girls Club.
Participants warmed up to the beat of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” As the song played, the sneakers of the students squeaked as they began doing a series of jumping jacks. The majority of students jumped in unity with smiles on their faces.
Students then maneuvered into formation to practice their hip hop choreography with their dance instructor, Paulette Rolle-Alesnik from Prodigy Moves.
Jaylin, a fifth-grader whose last name is being withheld, said the Prodigy dance program has impacted her life.
“Dancing with Prodigy helps me get all of my energy out while expressing to others to not do drugs,” Jaylin said.
Aydin, also a fifth-grader, said the Prodigy dance program taught him new life skills.
“If you work hard then you can achieve anything,” Aydin said. “I also learned dance, art and drumming in Prodigy.”
The positive results stem from Prodigy’s mobile program, which delivers the nonprofit’s mission of transformational arts to areas where a Prodigy site does not exist. The highly skilled instructors from Prodigy Moves specialize in an array of visual and mixed art forms such as photography, videography, fashion art and illustration.
“At Prodigy students learn multi-choreographs, leadership skills, teamwork and how to develop a community mentality, while integrating an academic component in each class,” Rolle-Alesnik said.
Prodigy uses life skills, infused arts, family and community to change lives. It evolved out of the University Area Community Development Corporation in 2000 and came into fruition as a research-proven, diversion, intervention and prevention program that provides a safe arena for ages 6 through 19.
In Hillsborough County Prodigy, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, can be found in four sites: Brandon, Ruskin-Wimauma, Seminole Heights-North Tampa and Town ‘n’ Country.
“More than 2,000 students will participate in Prodigy this year,” Prodigy director Mike Trepper said.
This program utilizes the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) approach through dance, performing arts, graphic arts and much more. Students also learn three life skills such as communication, anger management and problem solving. What students learn in Prodigy can be applied in and out of the classroom.
Prodigy gives students an outlet to enhance their skills for career development through these various programs.
The program does face a few challenges. It’s striving to reach more students, but does not possess the resources. Another challenge would be getting more public awareness about the program.
To overcome these challenges, Prodigy plans to conduct more art outreach efforts to get the message out in the community. In addition to that, Prodigy will work on its newsletter, social media and press release efforts.
On Dec. 10, it will stage the I Am Prodigy Music Festival. For more information visit, uacdc.org/index.php/education/prodigy.