MAKING A MARK: Non-Profit Group Mentors Young Dancers in Hampton Roads
Ice4Life Foundation cultivates the lives of young women through the art of dance. The Perfectly P.R.E.T.T.Y. program helps young girls reach their full potential.
NORFOLK, Va. — 16-year-old Makayla Parker wants to be a meteorologist. Ciara Mitchell, also 16, is an aspiring engineer and actress.
The girls have different ambitions, but they were brought together by a common passion.
"It was for the love of dance," said Dr. Eiesha Williamson, a former Hot Ice line dancer in the Norfolk State University Spartan 'Legion' Marching Band. Dr. Williamson was a part of the dance line in 2000.
"We were able to develop sisterhood," said Dr. Williamson. "And what we have been able to do is bond throughout the years."
In 2012, she and her dance line sisters formed the Ice4Life Foundation, a nonprofit that helps develop and encourage young women through the art of dance. Perfectly P.R.E.T.T.Y. (Poised, Respected, Educated, Talented, Trustworthy, You) is the foundation's mentorship program for middle and high school girls.
"We would come back just to speak with Hot Ice, the current squads," said Dr. Williamson. "But then, we decided, 'Hey, if we are doing such great things with young women 18 to 21, what could we do with young girls?'"
Dr. Williamson said the nonprofit now works with about 120 girls weekly and goes far beyond dancing.
"We're teaching young people the importance of other people, the importance of showing respect, being a young lady, being able to give back, being a scholar, a mentor," said Dr. Williamson. "And we're teaching them through our wisdom how to be productive citizens, I think, in the community."
The foundation hopes to equip girls with tools for future success and lessons they can use today.
"I want my confidence to be at the highest level, and I want to be able to smile and say, 'I love my body. I love my body so much,'" said Parker.