Milwaukee dance troupe teaches more than just rhythm

ONFYAH helps boost students' self-esteem.

A dynamic dance troupe is giving Milwaukee kids more than fun and exercise. At 13th and Fond du Lac in Milwaukee, lives are transformed.

"I feel like we're all blood, it's not like a friend thing, I consider all of them as like my family," states 14-year-old Kristina Monk.

A visit to a practice and you will find a pulsating beat of pride and a powerful performance by the African Dance and Drum group ONFYAH.

"If you look at what ONFYAH means, 'Our Nation For Youth And Healing,' we're trying to heal the nation through arts starting with the youth reading to the adults," explains executive director Akinyomi Courtney.

"When we came up with the idea of having ONFYAH, we wanted to provide the youth with a positive outlook," adds artistic director Jo'Niece Monk.

She points out, "Dance is a way of healing. Especially when you do African dance because everyday dance has some type of historical meaning behind it with the rhythms."

Students also learn the value of hard work, discipline, and avoiding the wrong circles. "They're stealing cars, smoking weed selling drugs. I don't like that type of stuff," shares 13-year-old Morgan Robinson.

ONFYAH was founded by Akinyomi Courtney and Jo'Niece Monk. "The most rewarding thing is sodding seeds back into the community, watching kids do something I valued so much in the community and they're doing it with no fear, just going at it." says Courtney.

He adds, "What you see me and Jo with these babies it's sharing the culture, sharing the pride it's lovely!"

The troupe has evidence participation can boost grades and self-esteem. Monk asserts, "Since being in ONFYAH, students' confidence has shot up through the roof, their grades have increased some of the kids are doing way better in school."

14-year-old Kristina Monk is evidence. She states. "I never had a lot of courage and confidence in myself and when ONFYAH first started it helped me build my self-esteem and made me smile more, dance is my happy place."

"It releases a lot of anger I get to communicate with dancers and drummers, its just a great experience for my life," adds 13-year-old Morgan Robinson. I wasn't doing to good in seventh grade, in eighth grade, I picked it up!"

Support from parents is critical. Moms and dads help fundraise to keep the price of a class at a modest 7 dollars.

Courtney exclaims, "It's a village, we have what we call ONFYAH village. Every mom every father is hands on! We have the best parent support system in the city!"

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