The Sisters Academy in Asbury Park NJ is an all-girls middle school (grades 5 through 8) that provides its students an academically challenging and highly disciplined learning environment. Just as with all other schools, there are specials, or opportunities to take non-academic classes as well. At the Sisters Academy, one of their electives, Hip-Hop Dance class, is taught by R-FH’s own Sydney Ringer (class of 2012).
This past summer, Ms. Ringer participated in a “Leaders for Social Change” course housed at Yale University. The program, offered by Academic Study Associates (ASA), was a three-week-long summer program offered to high school sophomores and juniors with a focus on developing future leaders. Students attending this program identify a global issue of concern to them (such as global climate change or health care access), then develop skills that are applicable to developing strategies for change: leadership skills, problem solving, finance, volunteer strategies and more. Participants of this program then develop an action plan to make a difference in their community back home.
“Back home,” Sydney remarks of her fellow students, “is a lot of places. This program was highly international, and home was Lebanon, Brazil, Italy, and beyond. It was interesting to work towards finding common ground with my fellow students. We had to accept things about each other; we had to agree to disagree.” This ability to work together is a hallmark of the young participants. In the end, these students – Sydney included– had to take their action plan home and make it work.
Sydney, who has been dancing competitively for 9 years, built her idea around her talent, dance and choreography. Ms. Ringer’s plan was to bring some of her knowledge to students who had a desire to learn dance, but probably didn’t have the resources. But the location? The students? Those questions had yet to be worked out upon her return.
An introduction to the Sisters of Mercy in Asbury Park was all she needed. Sydney began teaching a dance class at Sisters Academy, and now is in the middle of the first full semester of her class. Sydney works with half of the seventh grade students during their school day in the fall semester, and the other half in the spring semester. Each class progresses from warm-ups to new moves, and then works on a sequence and routine. Sydney hopes to find a performance space for the students to hold a recital at year’s end.
Ms. Ringer keeps on learning. She says that teaching as a skill is less mysterious to her now; she has come to understand an educator’s focus on students and providing them an opportunity to succeed.
These leadership skills dovetail nicely into Sydney’s future plans. She is interested in politics and finds herself attending to the many different points of view that exist in the world. As she waits to hear from the colleges to which she has applied, Sydney Ringer continues to dedicate herself to her community and her art.