Transformational Change With An Entrepreneurial Spirit: Get To Know Brian Gerardo (Baltimore ’08), Cynthia Chavez (Baltimore ’08), And Baltimore Dance Crews Project
Learn how TFA alumni Cynthia Chavez and Brian Gerardo started the Baltimore Dance Crews Project (BDCP) in their first years as teachers, leveraging their love for hip-hop dance to forge deeper connections with their students.
November 30, 2017
What was the need or problem that you wanted to address by starting BDCP?
Brian: When Cynthia and I first started teaching, we noticed that it was sometimes challenging for teachers to bond with students during class time. In addition, we learned that 80 percent of Baltimore students did not participate in afterschool or summer programs. To strengthen relationships between teachers and students and provide a meaningful afterschool experience for students, we created Baltimore Dance Crews Project – a hip-hop dance program where teachers could be mentors and students could become leaders.
How does BDCP support students and schools?
Brian: We bring high-quality hip-hop dance opportunities directly to schools through four phases of programs: expose, explore, engage, and experience.
- Expose: we introduce schools to hip-hop dance through performances, assemblies, and beginner-level dance workshops to attract future participation.
- Explore: schools upgrade to afterschool clubs (affectionately called “crews”) that teach foundational movement and performance. Crews of 10-25 students meet once a week with a teaching artist.
- Engage: middle and high school students audition for three of our city-wide performance teams. Members in BDCP’s adult dance company, the Collective, serve as mentors for the youth performance teams. Our Collective members come from a variety of professionals fields such as engineering, biomedicine, and teaching. This variety allows students to be exposed to and connect with careers beyond dance.
- Experience: with guidance from staff, BDCP seniors with two years of training can lead Expose and Explore programs. Training develops skills in collaboration, communication, accountability, creativity, and critical thinking.
Our pipeline transforms young hip-hop dancers into teaching artists who lead afterschool programs. A cycle of youth teaching youth will generate a cultural economy driven by dancers that increases accessibility to afterschool programs, improves the youth employment rate, and raises the high school graduation rate.
How has BDCP impacted students?
Brian: For students to succeed academically, we look beyond grades. Our four pillars: education accountability, career foundations, social capital, and hip-hop dance all play a role in student academic achievement. Using a social and emotional learning framework, our mentors approach academic accountability by focusing on early warning benchmarks around attendance, behavior, and coursework. This has led to 92% of BDCP seniors graduating high school within four years, 80% of our students maintaining a C or higher in classes, and 100% of BDCP graduates pursuing post-secondary education.
Where are you now?
Brian: In five years, we have brought hip-hop dance programs to over 15,000 students. We currently serve 75 students year-round and will have programs in over 15 schools this season.
Photos by Vicky Gray.