As I walked off side stage after my team’s performance, I was side-swiped by a hug. I turned to see Nithya’s mother smiling, with tears in her eyes. She couldn’t believe that her daughter was on stage, smiling and performing after what had been a very difficult year for her.
Nithya had joined my class three weeks after it had started. Her parents explained to me that she had recently been forced to change schools due to bullying. When class started, Nithya was quiet and barely made eye contact. As usual, I started our warm-up exercises. Having taken HIGH FIVE training, I was aware of how important was for children to make friends during the program in order to encourage them to participate and come back to the activity. For this reason, the first warm up of the day was always “the wiggles.” Each child would face a partner and they would both wiggle as a way to loosen up. Then they would switch partners and repeat it until all the participants had wiggled together.
As usual, my team’s wiggles got sillier and sillier and there was a lot of chatter and giggling. And then I heard it. A loud guffaw coming from none other than Nithya. After that day, nothing was the same. Nithya blossomed into not only a great dancer, but also a natural leader.
“Having taken HIGH FIVE training, I was aware of how important it was for children to make friends during the program in order to encourage them to participate and come back to the activity.”
I often think back on Nithya. Finding a friend group at dance gave her the confidence to approach her new school with courage. She stayed on with the dance team for five years, taking progressively more difficult roles. Making sure she had friends in class made a world of difference to her.