Recognizing that the arts have a unique power to engage and motivate children, the mission of Kids Excel El Paso (KEEP) is to help children develop discipline, a standard of excellence, and self-confidence that will positively impact their education and all aspects of their lives-one dance step at a time!
Using the award-winning National Dance Institute (NDI) teaching techniques created over 30 years ago by former NYC Ballet dancer Jacques d’Amboise, KEEP brings its highly-energetic dance program directly into public elementary schools as part of the curriculum teaching students how to work hard, strive for their personal best, and never give up.
KEEP was founded in October 2004 and began as a pilot program with 280 children in three South El Paso schools. KEEP has grown annually to meet the demand for its dynamic arts education outreach. Since inception, KEEP has served over 14,790 children, 897 classroom teachers, and over 189,200 audience members.
Following is a history of KEEP’s program expansion:
• 2004-2005 3 schools and 280 students
• 2005-2006 8 schools and 700 students
• 2006-2007 8 schools and 700 students
• 2007-2008 13 schools and 1,165 students
• 2008-2009 16 schools and 1,400 students
• 2009-2010 23 schools and 1,900 students
• 2010-2011 26 schools and 2,200 students
• 2011-2012 28 schools and 2,500 students
• 2012-2013 30 schools and 2,800 students
• 2013-2014 30 schools and 2,800 students
• 2014-2015 31 schools and 2,900 students
For the 2013-2014 school year, KEEP has maintained its curriculum in the 30 schools served last year and expanded to include 1 additional school and 100 students, thereby serving a total of 30 schools, 2,800 students, 170 classroom teachers, and 28,000 audience members. KEEP maintains a waiting list of 6 schools whose principals have requested this vital arts education programming which imparts children with essential skills to succeed in the classroom and throughout their lives.
Arts Education Outreach Program Activities
KEEP will conduct an average of 75 classes per week in its partner schools with classes ranging in size between 20-35 dancers meeting during the school day as part of the curriculum. A Teaching Artist and Musician who have been extensively trained in the NDI methodology teach each class. Students participating in KEEP’s programming experience a fast-paced, challenging, inclusive and fun approach to learning dance technique and the meaning of excellence. The dance style is based on pedestrian movement and characterized by clapping, stomping, stepping, leaping, and executing all steps with maximum energy, precision, and total physical commitment. Through KEEP’s intensive classes, students correspondingly learn discipline, listening, and how to work hard. KEEP’s arts education outreach services include:
- In School Program – weekly dance classes integrated into the curriculum for the entire 4th grade and their classroom teachers at each partner school
- Community Outreach Program – condensed introductory program for schools in outlying communities in El Paso County culminating in performance assembly for the whole school and parents
- Specialized Leaners Program – weekly classes for children challenged with learning differences and physical disabilities to exercise and strengthen their cognitive and physical skills
- Super Wonderful Advanced Team (SWAT) – weekly after school initiative that allows a select group of highly motivated children from participating schools to engage in an extracurricular scholarship program
- Celebration Team – weekly after school initiative for KEEP’s most accomplished returning dancers who wish to continue their experience with KEEP and develop their proficiency levels
- Tiny Tot Program – several weekly classes for Kindergarten students at participating schools
- Banner Project – local artists assist children in designing and painting a 5’x10’ banner depicting their school’s culture and experience with KEEP
- Curriculum Theme – yearly focus on academic subjects including history, science, math, literature, the environment, and fitness and health, incorporating relevant scholastic concepts into the KEEP classroom
- School-wide interactive assemblies – at each school after 15 weeks of programming
- End-of-Year performances – held at the end of 30-week programs featuring opening dance for 50-125 dancers, individual class dances and grand finale. Performances include props, simple costumes, sets, and music performed by the Kids Excel Band.
- Theatre Experience – 250-350 children from selected partner schools perform at the historic Plaza Theatre. Dancers for audiences of 4000 school children and 2000 parents and community supporters. Dancers and audiences receive a professional theatrical experience, complete with lights, props, costumes, and Kids Excel Band.
Meeting Community Needs
In April 2012, the National Center for Education Statistics issued findings from the first nationwide arts survey in a decade, documenting the state of arts education in U.S. public schools. The report states the percentage of elementary schools providing dance and drama instruction decreased from 20% in 1999-2000 to 3% and 4% in 2009-10. The survey also found that the “arts opportunity gap” is the widest for children in high-poverty, with just a third of high-poverty secondary schools having five or more courses in music, compared to 60% of low-poverty secondary schools, and just a fourth of high-poverty secondary schools having five or more courses in visual arts, compared to half of low-poverty secondary schools.
As a consequence of their socioeconomic demographics, many of KEEP’s students are marginalized in terms of societal expectations, extra-curricular opportunities, and support, all of which can lead to diminished self-esteem, scholastic underachievement and “at risk” behaviors. Through engagement in the arts, KEEP strives to address the needs of these and all its students by teaching the fundamental values of determination, discipline, and excellence.
KEEP’s programming aims to address the “arts opportunity gap” by providing students with access to arts instruction and high-quality arts education, which are critical components to ensuring El Paso’s students receive the world-class education they deserve. KEEP’s partner schools appreciate that its classes bring vital arts education programming directly into the classroom and encourage participation in the arts among children and their families. All KEEP classes are free of charge for children and their families.
KEEP provides students with the opportunity to build their self-esteem and improve their academic ability by engaging in a physically and mentally demanding dance program that challenges them to be their best. The program supports academic achievement with
cross-curricular activities that translate into increased self-confidence in the classroom and the discipline to achieve difficult goals. In addition to giving students an exciting, high quality arts education dance experience otherwise not offered in El Paso, KEEP instruction:
- Helps children learn that they can reach their full potential with hard work and commitment.
- Teaches important peer respect and teambuilding skills through constant reinforcement of good social behaviors.
- Follows the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS)
- Provides much needed arts education and academic enrichment programming to disadvantaged schools in the El Paso community.
- Helps children labeled “at-risk” to have more positive experiences that may help them remain in school.
- Gives children the opportunity to gain positive attention from parents and the school community through several performance opportunities.
- Builds community and support for schools by involving parents and community volunteers in KEEP’s programs.
- Provides entire school populations with artistic encounters that increase their capacity to derive pleasure and value from the arts and help to cultivate a lifelong desire for arts consumption.