Senior Project Ideas: People Helping Others

Classic ballet-dancer

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Project of charity: Western Michigan University dancer Chelsie Jackson reaches out to Iraq
By Rebecca Bakken | Special to the Kalamazo…
April 17, 2010, 1:00PM

KALAMAZOO – Western Michigan University dance student Chelsie Jackson wanted to reach a little farther with her senior project, all the way to Iraq.

Jackson has collected $1,700 worth of donated ballet clothes and some monetary donations to send to the Institute of Dance, a new dance school in the northern Iraqi city Sulaimaniya. The donations will help bring ballet to a culture that has not had the privilege of knowing the basic foundation of dance.

Jackson, a 23-year-old native of Westland, a Detroit suburb, had a hunch about the lack of ballet training in the Middle East and after doing some research found she was correct. She contacted the executive director of American Voices, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultural engagement, who pointed her toward Iraq’s Institute of Dance.

“They haven’t had a lot of (ballet) training in that region,” Jackson said. “And they’re aware that ballet is the foundation, you need that technique to do well” in other areas of dance.

Jackson wanted to combine her passion for dance with her interest in nonprofit organizations, specifically helping people overseas. After she graduates this spring, Jackson said she plans to take steps to turn her fundraising venture into a nonprofit entity so she can raise money to attend the Institute of Dance as a guest.

To collect the clothing, Jackson set up donation boxes at local dance studios, making sure to provide information about why the clothes are needed and where they would be going.

“I got a really good responses. A lot of people were very kind and very willing to spread the word,” Jackson said.

WMU Department of Dance faculty and administration were especially supportive, Jackson said. Nina Nelson, department chair, was Jackson’s advisor on the project.

“I admire Chelsie’s passion and I am confident this project will be successful because of her exceptional organizational and interpersonal skills.” Nelson said. “This project is an excellent example of how it is possible to extend an undergraduate course research project into a meaningful service-learning project.”


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